1.Oz: Government Push Polls on GM crops and foods
2.USA: Engineering acceptance of GM foods
3.Canada: Controversy over claims in favour of GM corn
NOTE: Here's the latest bit of dishonesty from the pro-GM putsch underway in Australia (item 1). Similar efforts to skew attitudinal research studies have taken place elsewhere, for instance in the case of the widely reported annual consumer surveys of the International Food Information Council (item 2). And then, of course, there's the infamous "Would you eat wormy sweet corn" research (item 3).
EXTRACTS: "It was unethical to falsely imply in the questionnaire that GM has solutions to key environmental problems when they do not exist now and are ten years from commercial reality, if ever." (item 1)
The results might be different, Suman offers, if [the survey] contained questions biased in the other direction such as: "Some people contend that some foods produced from biotechnology cause higher rates of cancer. If that is so, what effect would that have on your buying decision?" (item 2)
Government Push Polls on GM crops and foods
Gene Ethics Media Release, July 23 2007
"The Australian government push-polled Australians on genetically manipulated (GM) crops and foods to dishonestly inflate support for GM in its latest survey," says Gene Ethics Director, Bob Phelps.
"It was unethical to falsely imply in the questionnaire that GM has solutions to key environmental problems when they do not exist now and are ten years from commercial reality, if ever," he says.
"Most citizens support genuine solutions to air and water pollution, climate change and salinity on farms, but GM food crops are not the answer to these problems and probably never will be," he says.
"Gene Ethics saw the draft questionnaire but Biotechnology Australia rejected our proposal that people be asked their opinions on the costs, risks and hazards of GM foods and crops, as well as their claimed benefits," he said,
"Biotech Australia again showed itself to be a government-funded pro-GM lobbyist that promotes the interests of foreign GM giants ahead of Australian farmers and shoppers," he says.
"Industry Minister Ian MacFarlane's comments were also designed to mislead the public by cherry-picking the survey results and ignoring their inconvenient truths," Mr Phelps says.
"For instance, the Minister ignored Figure 25 on 'willingness to eat GM foods' that shows an average rating of 8.2 out of 10 for organic foods and 6.1 for non-organic," he says.
"Food containing preservatives rated 5.2, with GM foods lower, depending on the kind of genetic manipulation involved," he says.
"Food from GM crops was 5.1 and meat from cloned animals was last, at 3.6," he says.
"Shifts in public acceptance of GM foods were the result of revised wording from the last survey two years ago," he says.
"It's undemocratic and unfair to mould public opinion using biased surveys to justify GM policies that are nothing short of mad," Mr Phelps concludes.
More comment: Bob Phelps 03 9347 4500 or 0408 195 099
Minister's statement at:
2.Engineering acceptance of GM foods
International Food Information Council - profile
As part of its science-based remit IFIC commissions research into consumer attitudes. An area of repeated focus by the IFIC has been consumer acceptance of 'food biotechnology'. 'Since 1997, IFIC has provided the longest continuous series of publicly available surveys to determine how consumers feel about food biotechnology.'
The results of each annual survey are press released, attracting wide-scale media coverage. In 2002 IFIC reported, 'American consumer support for food biotechnology is holding steady, while specific benefits are resonating even more in the latest survey conducted for the International Food Information Council by Cogent Research in August 2002.' (SUPPORT FOR FOOD BIOTECHNOLOGY HOLDS IN THE U.S., September 23, 2002 )
In 2003, IFIC reported, 'A growing majority of Americans support the benefits of food biotechnology as well as the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) labeling policy.'
The surveys were devised for the IFIC by Dr Thomas Hoban , Professor of Sociology and Food Science at North Carolina State University. Dr Hoban is a keen supporter of genetic engineering and is listed by CS Prakash as an AgBioWorld expert.
Hoban's publications include, 'Biotechnology is Here to Stay: American retailers need not worry about consumer acceptance of foods produced with modern biotechnology', and an outreach videotape, 'Biotechnology: It's Role in Your Future'.
Hoban's IFIC survey questions include:
'All things being equal, how likely would you be to buy a variety of produce, like tomatoes or potatoes, if it had been modified by biotechnology to taste better or fresher?'
'Biotechnology has also been used to enhance plants that yield foods like cooking oils. If cooking oil with reduced saturated fat made from these new plants was available, what effect would the use of biotechnology have on your decision to buy this cooking oil.'
According to Karen Charman in a PR Watch article on Hoban's IFIC surveys:
'James Beniger, a communications professor at the University of Southern California and past president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, reviewed the IFIC survey and said it is so biased with leading questions favoring positive responses that any results are meaningless. UCLA communications professor Michael Suman agreed, adding that the questions "only talk about the food tasting better, being fresher, protecting food from insect damage, reducing saturated fat and providing benefits. It's like saying 'Here's biotechnology, it does these great things for you, do you like it?'" '
The results might be different, Suman offers, if it contained questions biased in the other direction such as: 'Some people contend that some foods produced from biotechnology cause higher rates of cancer. If that is so, what effect would that have on your buying decision?'
3.Controversy over claims in favour of GM corn
From issue 2553 of New Scientist magazine, 27 May 2006, page 7http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg19025533.300&feedId=gm-food_rss20
A LEADING researcher into scientific ethics is calling for the withdrawal of a paper published in the British Food Journal two years ago purporting to show that consumers preferred genetically modified to non-GM sweetcorn. The study, carried out at a farm store in Canada, claimed that sales of the GM crop were 50 per cent higher. The journal later awarded the study a prize as its "most outstanding paper" of 2004.
Now the campaign group GMWatch has published a photograph that it says shows a large sign suspended above the non-GM corn during the study that asked: "Would you eat wormy sweetcorn?" The GM corn, it claims, was labelled as "quality sweetcorn". The paper (vol 105, p 700) claims that the corn was marked simply as either genetically engineered or regular.
If this is the case, "it is grounds for the journal to retract the article," says Richard Jennings, who studies research conduct at the University of Cambridge. Journal editor Chris Griffith of the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff has refused to withdraw the paper, but says he is willing to publish a letter condemning it followed by a response from the lead author, Doug Powell of Kansas State University.
[More on this research, and the photograph mentioned by New Scientist, at