In September 2003, the UK published the results of an unprecedented national debate on GM issues, ‘GM Nation?’ to help guide the Government's consideration for potentially adopting the applications of this technology. Some believe it was just a PR exercise, but the unequivocal message emerging from the debate is of overwhelming public uncertainty. The report revealed that questions abound over the safety of GM food, the environmental impact of growing GM crops, and where the public can get hold of trusted, nonpartisan information.
People understand the potential uses of GM but want to comprehend the issues better in order to have informed opinions. However, far from information quelling people's fears, many become more concerned as they engage in GM issues. Furthermore, there is an increasing mistrust of multinational companies and the possibility of early commercialisation of a little-understood technology.
The UK's report has caused a stir in Europe, where Green Party MEP Dr Caroline Lucas claimed that the European Parliament's Environmental Committee has admitted ‘for the first time the possibility of a GM-free UK’. Outside of Europe, the use of GM crops in developing countries is a further concern.
Opinion is clearly still divided, not just in the public domain, but also through the scientific community. Here, Heredity presents two different views, written by eminent scientists involved in the GM field.
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The meanings of genomics: a focus group study of “interested” and lay classifications of salmon genomics
Public Understanding of Science (2008)