GM Watch comment: In the days running up to the important May 7th meeting of European Union Commissioners to discuss the approval of a number of GMOs, an online poll appeared on the website of GMO Compass.

Simultaneously a number of pro-GM lobby groups e-mailed their supporters telling them to complete the poll ahead of the meeting on the 7th. Here, for example, is what the European Federation of Biotechnology told its members:

'A pro-biotech internet survey will be launched on the website in the coming 2 days and would encourage you to answer the few questions and circulate this email encouraging other people to log on and answer the yes/no questions asap and certainly before midday on May 6th.'

The pro-GM lobbyist Klaus Ammann was even more explicit about the purpose of the poll on his listserv:

'I am sure you have been alerted through several channels about a poll, which is of political importance. it has been distributed since last Wednesday: the pro-biotech survey is now on line at and needs your input please!


The objective is to get as many positive answers as possible by next Tuesday evening before the College of Commissioners meeting on Wednesday but also to continue collecting positive votes at least until the day before the 27 EU Ministers for the environment meet to discuss GMOs as well on June 5th.'

The questions in the poll are given below and as you'll see they are outrageously skewed. What makes this shocking is that GMO Compass is funded with EU money and claims not to be:

'decidedly "for" or "against" genetic engineering. The website does not seek to discourage the use of genetic engineering in food and agriculture, nor does it seek to promote it.'

The poll was subsequently claimed to have shown 90% support for GMOs.

By contrast, the Commission's own 2008 Eurobarometer poll on GMOs showed just 21 per cent of EU citizens in favour of GM and 58 per cent against.

Genius, the German agency that runs the GMO-Compass website, admitted when pressed by journalists that the poll would be used by pro-GM forces.

GMO-Compass is, in fact, almost invariably pro-GM in its output. Behind its activities seems to be a company ('Genius') which numbers amongst its many GM-related clients: the American Soybean Association, BASF, Bayer, EuropaBio and Syngenta

Here are the questions in its poll, and then an exchange of letters:

Should European agriculture make use of the best available technologies, including biotechnology and genetic engineering, to minimise negative effects on the environment and to optimise the global food supply?
Results to date:
Yes 93.91%
No 4.15%
Don't know 1.18%
No answer 0%

Should all available technologies, including biotechnology and genetic engineering, be considered as tools to improve plants and crops in order to meet the challenges of increasing production while reducing environmental impact?
Results to date:
Yes 94.92%
No 3.72%
Don't know 1.18%
No answer 0%

Do you agree that plants which, for example, grow well under drought conditions and/or have been improved for nutritional content, should be available to be grown as a means of improving global food supply and combating malnutrition?
Results to date:
Yes 96.28%
No 2.54%
Don't know 0.76%
No answer 0%
Dear Dr Minol

Thanks for reply. I'm intrigued by your stress on "sound and solid science" and on "visible public opinions." Your GMO Compass poll had nothing at all to do with either of those things. It was just about as unscientific and biased as a poll could be -- no respectable polling organization would even have contemplated putting out such loaded questions, and neither would any honest scientist. Let's be straight here -- those questions were specifically designed to elicit "Yes" answers, and I continue to think that your organization used them for a perfectly simple and obvious propaganda purpose. You were
not looking for the truth -- you were looking for ammunition to support your predetermined case. That is lousy science, and I object to public funding being used to promote it.

And "visible public opinion"? This was not about public opinions at all -- as we all know, the poll was promoted by the GM industry, and certain individuals well-known as pro-GM campaigners circulated EMail messages urging all their pro-GM colleagues to go to the web site and put in the "right" answers to the questions. The poll was probably not even noticed by the general public -- and for you to pretend that
it somehow represents public opinion is disingenuous and even dishonest. If the poll has any meaning at all, it simply tells us that pro-GM researchers and industry employees are pro-GM. Big deal.

No matter what you say, GMO Compass and Genius should be thoroughly ashamed of this grubby little exercise.

Yours sincerely,
Dr Brian John

On 20 May 2008, at 08:19, Dr. Klaus Minol wrote:

> Dear Brian John,
> Thank you very much for your message and your interest in our GMO
> Compass activities.
> I would like to express my view that, in the first instance, sound
> and solid science as well as visible public opinions is important
> to fuel public debate on the question of whether GM technology may
> play a role in improving food security and environmental
> protection.
> On this account, our intention was to provide a forum to focus on
> the enormous tasks of global agriculture and to create a platform
> for the public to articulate opinions.
> We presented a scenario in which GM technology may be a tool
> towards the solution of such problems and challenges. I would like to
> point out that we focused on the technology and not on "GM
> products" in general. I am well aware that unsuitable GM products may
> exist now and in future that do not contribute movement towards the
> goals defined in our poll.
> Ultimately, socio-ecological assessments on a "case-by-case" basis
> are essential to support the decision of whether a specific GMO
> is or is not appropriate to fulfill such requirements.
> We have also published an article on our website that describes our
> intention in regard to our quick survey (see link below).
> We are planning to intensify our editorial work in this field. We
> will accompany, and hopefully stimulate, sound discussions on the
> topic. We intend to pick up and mirror scientifically proven facts
> on genetically modified plants, but we also will pay strong
> attention to risks, threats and misgivings - whether real or as
> perceived by the public. I appreciate your contacting me and I look
> forward to constructive input from you.
> Best wishes
> Klaus Minol
> 360.results_gmo_compass_snapshot_poll.html