As of the 25/03/2017 I have received 33 responses to my public perception survey. Although this is a very small sample size and thus any findings should be taken very cautiously, there are some pretty clear trends which are already starting to emerge. To see the full results please click here.
Q1) To what extent would you be happy eating GM crops?
Overall almost 80% of the people who have completed my survey would be happy to eat GM crops although the majority of those would also like to see strict regulations in place to ensure that the crops are suitably safe. Only 2 people said they would never eat GM crops which all suggests that despite all the concerns and bad press that GM crops often face, the people who I have sampled give an impression that although the issues do exist, as long as we are sensible with our technologies then people don’t have the issues with using them.
Q2) Do you believe GM crops cause a health risk?
44% of my respondents to this question believed that GM crops cause no more health risks than regular crops. This is quite striking as before I started to do any research I had in my head that one of the perceptions about GM crops was that there is so much unknown about how the GM organisms will react within us after being consumed thus creating unknown potential health risks for the future such as increased cancer rates or other unknown effects. Looking closely at the data there is still 27% of people who do believe GM crops cause health risks but of these it seems to be a 50/50 split over whether all GM crops contain health risks or if it is just a few. This is interesting as it suggests there may be just certain GM technologies which people are worried about and not just the concept of genetic modification as a whole. It would be interesting to look further into this and explore exactly what is causing this split.
Q3) Do you believe growing GM crops causes environmental harm or risks environmental contamination?
My responses to this question where very mixed across the entire spectrum of extents at which people believe this is the case. The most common answer with 27% of the responses was that they are no worse than normal crops in this extent. However, 58% of people believed that to some extent they are worse. This is also reflected in my worded answers to question 8 where a lot of people have raised concerns about environmental issues with GM crops. As this seems to be one of the main areas of concern for the majority of people I have decided to create a separate post focusing specifically on these issues.
Q4) In general what traits do you support the use of genetic technology to artificially enhance?
All responses to this question received a few votes but there were 4 main areas that stood out as being particularly tolerable. These are: drought resistance (85%), pest resistance (70%), nutritional value (64%) and size and productivity of crops (64%). These reflect the main reasons why GM crops are in use today and also are reflected in what most people stated as advantages in question 8. The issues of food security is one which is becoming increasingly important around the world and it is reflected in my results that the changes that help make this task easier are those that people are most tolerable towards. Despite my sample size being very small I still have 15% of responses completely against the use of GM crops. This is not an insignificantly small amount and thus shows that there definitely is a fair proportion of society that hold very strong opposing views towards GM crops.
Q5) Do you support or oppose the use of GM crops in parts of the world where there are food food shortages or where non-GM crops wouldn’t be able to grow due to the environment?
64% of my respondents strongly supported this, a clear majority to any secondary answers. On top of that a further 18% were also in support of this although believe there exist better options. Unfortunately I didn’t give an option to state what people believe these better options would be. This does show a clear recognition that there is a problem with food security in various parts of the world and the majority of people seem to acknowledge that GM crops are a way of combating the issues that exist even if other options exist too.
Q6) Do you believe GM crops should be sold in the UK?
Whilst currently GM crops are not sold in the UK except in the form of animal feed¹, it doesn’t seem like it will be long before they are regularly available in our supermarkets. America is way ahead of the UK with the use of GM crops with certain species being almost completely GM grown these days. For a detailed list of GM crops grown in America see here. 70% of the people who answered my survey seem keen to see the UK adopt a similar approach to GM crops. However, 20% of people still say they don’t believe the UK should sell GM crops. This is larger than the percentage of people who are against GM crops altogether this disparity shows that there is portion of the population that believe in the use of GM crops as a tool to help people but not in scenarios where we would just be making things better in places where they are already good.
Q7) In your opinion, how does the acceptability of genetic modification technologies differ between humans, animals, crops consumed by animals, crops consumed by humans and other plants?
The results for this question aren’t immediately clear but looking closely at exactly what values people gave for each option it is clear that in general the use of genetic engineering is more acceptable on crops than it is on animals and humans. The large number of responses of “too difficult to say” show that the whole topic of genetic engineering, whatever the exact subject, is one which the general public is very under informed about. It is admittedly a very complex topic with a lot of variability from case to case but there is only a small portion of the public who hold a strong opinion about it. This is exactly why blogs and other information sources like this are needed. As these technologies continue to evolve the public needs to be able to hold an informed opinion about the use of the technologies to help ensure that they are used in the most effective and responsible way in the future.
Q8) Please state what you believe are the main advantages and disadvantages of using GM crops.
Many of the advantages listed by people were very similar. There is a lot of focus on the benefit GM crops have in helping food sources adapt to the growing pressures of climate change and their important role in the future of food security. As well as these there was also quite a bit of focus on the environmental benefits of GM crops for instance the reduced amount of resources needed in agriculture. I have focused a post specifically on these main benefits of GM crops.
The disadvantages people listed can be separated into 2 main categories. Environmental impacts such as cross pollination with other plants and the effect on ecosystems and political/economic including the monopoly of food supply in 3rd world countries and corporate control. As these are some of the most important influences on peoples opinions on GM crops I have written a separate post focusing on each of these two main areas exploring exactly how much of a negative impact each of them are.
Q9) What is your age?
I asked this question to try and gauge whether the opinions on GM crops are different between different generations. I am yet to have been able to break down my responses into different age groups to check if any such differences do exist but I have been able to collect a range of responses from people aged 17 to 73 thus hopefully I have got responses reflecting the opinions of most generations in our population.
Q10) Would you like to see science continue to develop genetic technologies in crops?
I had a strong majority (75%) for letting science continue its work on genetic engineering from this question. I was expecting a similar result to this. Apart from those people completely set against genetic engineering most people have shown some indication of at least acknowledging that GM crops could hold potential for the future. Thus it is to be expected that even if they are not for the use of genetic technologies at present, they are not completely against the idea of them being used in the future. However, there was still 40% who aren’t definitely for the continuation. This is a very high percentage and shows again that GM crops still have a lot of barriers to overcome before they are to be accept by the public.