NOTE: Some important points here in relation to the findings of the British Science Association's GM food poll.
EXTRACT: Where we haven't yet seen enough progress is in tackling the democratic deficit at the heart of British research policy, which leaves the public, small businesses and farmers little say in the research that is done with their money and in their name.
Should the UK now embrace GM food?
online Guardian debate
Comment from Dr Tom MacMillan, director of innovation at the Soil Association:
Contrary to the headline [Public concern over GM food has lessened, survey shows], the survey doesn't actually show that public concern over GM food has lessened – it shows that attitudes have neither hardened nor thawed.
For the comparable questions where there is data for the years in between now and 2003, we actually see a great deal of fluctuation in public attitudes. The share saying they agree that GM food "should be encouraged" actually drops from 46% in 2002 to 27% in 2012. Not only does that directly call into question the notion that there is greater public appetite for GM, but the fact that the figures are 35% in 2005 yet 44% in 2010 suggest it is absolute nonsense to suggest a clear trend here.
There are lots of substantive arguments around GM, the future of food and farming, and so on, that I'm sure this coverage will cause to be rehearsed. But the premise – a new survey shows an important shift in attitudes – is incorrect.
This survey repeats questions people were first asked a decade ago. While that might be an interesting academic exercise, in practice the world has moved on in those 10 years, to new areas of research and innovation, so it is a real throwback to focus on GM. Where we haven't yet seen enough progress is in tackling the democratic deficit at the heart of British research policy, which leaves the public, small businesses and farmers little say in the research that is done with their money and in their name.