EXTRACT: A study on food safety by Singapore-based Asian Food Information Centre (AFIC)... pointed out that about 84 per cent of Indians are ready to purchase biotech food items such as tomatoes, food staples and cooking oils.

NOTE: According to its own website, the Asian Food Information Centre (AFIC) is "funded largely by the food, beverage and agricultural industries" (includes biotech companies).

It also has a "strong alliance" with CropLife Asia - one of the six regional nodes of CropLife International, which represents Dupont, Monsanto and Syngenta, amongst others.

According to Croplife Asia, this "strong alliance" with AFIC includes "support for its biotechnology consumer surveys, and development of strong local positive biotechnology messages."

AFIC appears to be modeled on the International Food Information Council (IFIC), which AFIC describes as its "US sister organization".

IFIC's activities include annual surveys that consistently report very positive consumer attitudes to GM foods. IFIC is financially backed by Monsanto, BASF, Cargill, Dow, DuPont, and Syngenta, amongst others.

IFIC's surveys have included survey questions such as:
"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." (U.S. Consumer Attitudes Toward Food Biotechnology Survey)
According to Karen Charman in a PR Watch article about the 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?'" [The Professor Who Can Read Your Mind by Karen Charman in PR Watch Vol.6, No. 4]   

It would be interesting to know how AFIC's survey questions compare with those of its "US sister organization". Judging by AFIC's report on the results of its survey, it almost certainly contained questions similarly intended to prompt positive responses:

According to AFIC, "...almost all consumers support plant biotechnology if the technology is related to sustainable food production. The study was divided into nutritious foods and food sustainability.

"Majority of Indian consumers are ready to purchase biotechnology food such as tastier tomato, 84%, cheaper food staples, 77%, and foods/cooking oil with healthier fat profile, 71%." (Consumer perceptions of food biotechnology in India 2008, p.4)
Indian consumers are more confident about food safety: AFIC study
Food & Beverage News, January 24 2009 |
Mumbai - A study on food safety by Singapore-based Asian Food Information Centre (AFIC) said that Indian consumers are most confident about food safety levels in the country as compared to other Asian countries like China and Japan. The study also pointed out that about 84 per cent of Indians are ready to purchase biotech food items such as tomatoes, food staples and cooking oils.

George Fuller, Executive Director, AFIC, said, “It is encouraging to note that 84 per cent of Indians are ready to purchase bio-tech food. This is good for India as the government considers crop biotechnology as a strategic element to increase food productivity.” The government has, so far, not approved the commercial production of any genetically-modified (GM) food products in India.

According to experts, the study is significant, especially in view of the fact that the approval for GM crops in India has always been a controversial matter, with organisations such as Greenpeace India voicing concern about various safety-related and other issues allegedly associated with such products.

To bring appropriate food safety norms in the country, the Ministry of Health and Food Safety Standards Authority (FSSA) has decided to draft guidelines, which are expected in a month.