No, this is not going to be a post presenting personal political views in the context of the 2012 presidential debates. However, I’ll look at maybe the second most important election that took place in California, USA, apart from the presidential one – the reasons behind “Prop 37” and perceptions about genetically modified foods (GM).
Long story, short: when Monsanto – the agriculture biotechnological corporation – first came up with the GMO concept, they seemed to be farmers’ new best friend, promising “the new best tools and technologies”. However, due to the lack of scientific research that would prove GMOs to be safe for human consumption, they started facing major reputation issues worldwide after a while.
One of the arguments against GMOs concerns the disputed result of some recent studies conducted by a group of scientists in France that have stated that rats fed with GMOs over a lifetime ended up with severe organ damage (liver and kidney) and also brain tumours. As a result, a tremendous amount of sceptics started to have their say, thus the food industry witnessed what was to become of one of the biggest debates in history. Hugely budgeted campaigns started from both the sides- citizens and food producers- that aimed to educate the public either that GMOs are safe or that they are not suitable for human consumption, and therefore they need to be labelled. For months, citizens of California have been given the chance to take a side and express their final judgement by either voting “YES” or “NO” to labelling the GMOs.
Right before the elections took place on the 6th of November, me and the other two valuable contributors to this blog decided to see how this whole debate was being perceived in UK so we facilitated a discussion on the topic of “Food Wars”.
We were very curious to see what the rate of concerned consumers was among the participants to our facilitated discussion. But before I get into more details regarding the discussion, here are some facts and figures that should give you a better idea on the matter. British Science Association published the Populus Survey they conducted on the UK population in Spring this year.
“The poll shows the British public need more information on the benefits and risks. Nearly half (44%) said they did not know if GM crops would be good for the UK economy, while a similar number (48%) said they did not know if it would be safe for future generations.”, said Adam Vaughan in an article published for The Guardian.
The results of the facilitated discussion we conducted proved the accuracy of the above stated quote. See below for the reasons why.
Once being presented the facts, the participants were invited to first share their views on the lack of transparency that Monsanto is said to be blamed for. 40% of them stated they were not aware of those facts until that point. 25% of the participants who had heard about this “food war” perceived the lack of information given to the public as the silence that proves guilt. They stated they were unclear as to why Monsanto would not face the crowd and conduct some further scientific research that would prove GM foods are good for human consumption.
Interestingly enough, 75% stated that, although not sure about how safe the GM foods are, they would still consume them, as a commitment to the sustainability movement the governments are trying to implement in order to overcome a future lack of resources.
Coming back to Prop 37, although the majority voted “No” to labeling GM foods so there is nothing to do about it in the near future, ethically and ideally speaking, should we be given the right to choose whether or not certain foods are in accordance to our standards or should we rely on the assumption that the Government knows what is best for us? And equally important, how do you find the results of the facilitated discussion we conducted?
Really look forward to reading your comments!