1.Science favours 'emotional' GM opponents
2.Consumers want better GM labelling: Report

NOTE: Must be a nightmare for the FSA that their hoped-for spin on this report has largely unspun into: "What do we want? Better GM labelling, including on products from animals fed GM feed. When do we want it..." (item 2)
1.Science favours 'emotional' GM opponents
Geoffrey Lean
Daily Telegraph, November 26 2009

Trust the Food Standards Agency. Charged with conducting a national debate on GM food and crops, it starts out by denigrating opponents to them as governed by emotion and ideology rather than reason. So the official line that the exercise is about promoting a balanced dialogue rather than, say, using it as a way to persuade a reluctant public to embrace the stuff is blown from the very beginning.

It is true that emotion and ideology do guide some opponents but they are exploited just as much by supporters of  the technology. Many exhibit a truly ideological intolerance of anyone who disagrees with them. And what else but an appeal to emotion is the constantly repeated claim that GM is needed to feed the world, when the world's biggest study into the issue endorsed by many governments including our own -    concluded that it is not?

In fact the cold, unemotional science favours the protesters, at least over the environmental effects. A painstaking government study, conducted through real field trails over several years found that growing GM crops was more damaging to wildlife than conventional agriculture, even though it was widely expected (some would say was designed to) exonerate them. And it is well established that genes escaping from them will contaminate other crops and plants, creating superweeds. The evidence on possible effects on health is not clear either way;  shamefully very few good, independent and peer-reviewed studies have been carried out.

At least the Food Standards Agency is running true to form. Four and a half years ago its own performance review called on it to review its policies on GM and organic agriculture saying that the "vast majority" of its "stakeholders" believed it had "deviated from its normal stance of making statements based solely on scientific evidence, to giving the impression of speaking against organic food and for GM food". But it has carried on regardless, in defiance of its supposed role as an impartial, unideological arbiter.
2.Consumers want better GM labelling: Report
By Caroline Scott-Thomas
FoodQuality, 26 November 2009

Consumers think that current labelling regulation for genetically modified (GM) foods is inadequate, according to a new report from the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The FSA-commissioned report, compiled by independent researchers at the National Centre for Social Research, used a combination of surveys, workshops and in-depth interviews to explore consumer attitudes to GM foods, as well as how those attitudes are formed. It found a broad consensus that consumers think labels should flag all GM processes in foods, including products produced using GM technology or animals fed GM animal feed, which do not currently have to be labelled.

“This study found that existing labelling of food is considered inconsistent and confusing,” the report said. “For example, people reported that the labelling of some foods as ‘non-GM’ or ‘GM-free’ had led them to believe that GM ingredients were widely used in other products.”

The UK government’s overall policy on the cultivation of GM crops is that it should be assessed on a case-by-case basis, but genetically modified foods are still not widely available in the UK, according to the FSA.

Most UK consumers are either undecided or opposed to genetically modified (GM) foods, and most are mistrustful of information sources on the subject, the report said.

In a letter to FSA chair Jeff Rooker, the Soil Association's policy director Peter Melchett renewed the organisation's appeal for all foods - including meat and dairy - to be considered for GM labelling.

He wrote: "In the light of your findings, the Soil Association is asking the Food Standards Agency to introduce compulsory labelling of any meat or dairy products from animals fed on GM animal feed."

Attitudes to science

Among the report's key findings, it said that those with positive attitudes toward science and technology were more likely to have positive attitudes toward GM foods.

“They argued against the claim that GM food is unnatural, viewing it as an extension of evolving scientific and agricultural practices” it found. “The potential risks of GM food were recognised but it was claimed that these were outweighed by the benefits.”

However, the opposite was also the case, with those who had negative views of science in general more likely to oppose GM technology.

“From this perspective, the risks involved in scientific activity were less acceptable and the motives and effectiveness of regulation of new food technologies were questioned,” the report said. “Another facet of this viewpoint was that scientific progress was perceived to be happening too fast without sufficient attention to the ethical consequences that it raises.”

Transparency and consumer choice were highly valued across the attitudinal range.

The report concluded that it raises implications for the FSA in terms of information, communication, labelling and regulation.

Although many study participants said that they did not trust the media, government or the food industry seed companies in particular to provide them with impartial information, on the whole the FSA was seen as separate from government and a credible source of information. People also saw academics and health professionals as reliably impartial.

The full report can be accessed online here .