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Will Europeans accept GM animal technologies?

An investigation into the use of genetically modified (GM) animals for food and pharmaceuticals has shed light on health, safety, environmental, ethical, cultural and economic concerns. The information obtained will inform future policies around the development and commercialisation of GM animals.
Will Europeans accept GM animal technologies?
Genetic modification includes cloning, fusing cells of different organisms that cannot be crossed naturally, and the artificial transfer of heritable material between organisms. GM animals offer many benefits for food and medicine production, but health and environmental risks, as well as ethical and cultural issues must be carefully assessed.

The EU-funded 'Public perception of genetically modified animals - science, utility and society' (PEGASUS) project explored public perceptions and economic, health and sustainability factors surrounding GM animals in order to provide support to policymakers. Case studies focused on terrestrial and aquatic animals, as well as on pharmaceutical end-products in order to identify risks and benefits.

Researchers found that public opinion of GM animals is generally more negative than that of GM plants, and especially if used in foods rather than pharmaceuticals. Further results implied that GM animals need to be considered on a case-by-case basis, considering different types of animals and different reasons for modification.

They also concluded that risk–benefit assessments should consider potential health, environmental or socioeconomic risks in countries destined to receive GM animal exports. This is so that producing countries do not reap benefits from GM animal technologies at the expense of developing economies in particular.

Another major recommendation is that the EU supports research to improve techniques for the generation of GM animals and the evaluation of potential impacts. This should align with the preferences of the public, who value consumer choice and would benefit from certified labelling that distinguishes between GM and non-GM animal products.

Overall, these findings point to societal acceptance as a deciding factor when it comes to GM animal technologies. Communication and more public engagement with emerging policies will thus be key in highlighting potential risks and benefits.

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