Fear and suspicion on the GM menu

NEARLY two thirds of people fear that they could be eating genetically modified food without knowing it, says a survey.

Most also believe that the large biotechnology companies are most likely to gain from GM food and crops, and there is little public benefit in the technology.

Some 45 per cent of people said that they tried to avoid GM food and ingredients. One third found the idea of GM food acceptable.

The findings were published yesterday by the Consumers’ Association and are intended to inform the public debate on the subject ordered by the Government. Ministers must decide next year whether to allow the commercial planting of GM crops in Britain after analysing tests to see if the technology demages the environment.

Sheila McKechnie, director of the Consumers’ Association, accused Tony Blair of trying to push the British into accepting GM food. She criticised comments by Mr Blair in a speech to the Royal Society in May when he said that opposition to GM was “irrational and based on emotion”.

The consumer group called for a moratorium on further GM products coming on to the market, and on the commercial planting of GM crops, until concerns were addressed. It would also like to see a more open regulatory process. One thousand adults were interviewed for the survey by the pollsters BMRB.