ecoglobe [yinyang] news (26 December 1999)

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by HortResearch NZ

It would seem that New Zealanders are still making up their minds about the benefits or otherwise of genetic technology, especially with regard to food. The unknown short-and long-term risks of genetic technology on health and the environment were among concerns expressed in the preliminary results of a three- year long study into the public's perceptions of genetically modified (GM) food.

The study, designed to measure and understand consumer attitudes towards GM foods, was undertaken by HortResearch in collaboration with AgResearch, Forest Research Institute, Auckland University and Massey University.

A perceived lack of choice and control over consumption of GM food due to the lack of labelling regulations and the resulting perception of being `part of an experiment' without having given consent was another concern.

[RL: Excellent - lack of trust and choice.]

Over half of the 908 New Zealanders aged 14 to 65, surveyed indicated some negativity towards GM foods. A quarter were extremely negative.

[RL: That's a big chunk of the market.]

Women were more likely to feel this way than men, as were people aged between 35-44 and over 65.

[RL: As women are still the major buyers of food this is a positive difference. Do we know what percentage of women feel this way? It also means that educating the children is a good strategy to spread the word. It worked wonders with the Tuna campaign.]

In comparison, only 10-18 percent felt positive about the technology and were more likely to be men aged between 18 and 24. A third were undecided.

[RL: Laggards are a well defined group in change management -- don't worry about these ones -- they'll come around. They are not the movers and shakers.]

However, the picture changed when people were presented with an image of a tomato genetically modified to reduce the need for pesticides. About 40 percent said they would probably avoid the tomatoes, and 25 of these said they would definitely avoid them. However, 20-25 percent said they probably would buy the tomatoes. Again, a third said they were undecided.

[RL: Given that Flavr Savr flunked this is a good statistic.]

No gender differences were apparent, but rural respondents were more likely to avoid the product.

[RL: If rural respondents are more likely to avoid the products then it seems logical that the Fed Farmers is in trouble with its pro-GE stance. Remember that both the Country Womens Institute and the Women's Division of Federated Farmers both past remits very strongly opposed to GE crops/food.
That gives good options for some bedroom diplomacy!!]

The researchers said there had been debate about how informing and educating the public will affect attitudes towards GM technology. Results show that knowledge plays some role in determining the belief that gene technology can provide benefits, although other factors such as concern for the environment are more influential. Indications are that people are still taking their time to consider the risks and benefits.

[RL: The RC will give a good forum to educate the public who are very sceptical of big business advisers. As I've been advocating for some time, give the people the information and they'll ignore the so-called experts and makeup their own mind. The era of the expert is on the wain!!]

It will be another six months before the final analysis of this information will be completed giving a greater understanding of New Zealanders' attitudes towards genetic engineering.

[RL: If these are the pre-RC stats then that is very encouraging. In six months time this survey will be irrelevant.]

[RM: This parting shot is interesting. Whoever is in charge of this caper apparently doesn't want any final picture to emerge in time for the Royal Commission's early work.
In view of which institutions sponsored the caper, we must fear that it will have been biased in favour of GE. I regret to say that these outfits, with their consistent history of proGE bias, can hardly be imagined to have done it fairly.]

[Source: RSNZ email bulletin posted 23 December 1999 to the NZ <> Genetic Engineering List, commented by [RL] Ron Law and [RM] Robert Mann] ** This material is distributed for research and educational purposes only. ** Feedback to: <>






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ecoglobe [yinyang] news (26 December 1999)

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