19 June 1998

MORI poll shows growing number are against GM crops

By Johann Tasker

A GROWING majority of the British public is opposed to genetically modified crops, according to the results of a MORI opinion poll published this week.

The survey, conducted last week, found 77% of people want GM crops banned, 61% do not want to eat GM food, and 58% oppose the use of genetic engineering in food production.

The poll was commissioned by the anti-GM pressure group, GeneWatch, which has called for a moratorium on all GM crops until the implications of growing them have been fully assessed.

The survey also reveals a sharp rise in public opposition to GM crops since a similar MORI poll carried out 18 months ago. More than 70% of those questioned this time expressed concern that GM crops could cause "genetic pollution" by interbreeding with naturally occurring wild plants and weeds.

GeneWatch director, Sue Mayer, said new research casts doubts on previous safety assessments of GM crops. Serious damage could be done to the environment and farming if they were grown, she added.

"The only people who are likely to benefit are the huge multinational companies which are developing the crops," Dr Mayer said.

GeneWatch is especially critical of assertions made by agrochemical giant AgrEvo, which has developed GM oilseed rape resistant to the herbicide glufosinate.

AgrEvo scientists hope the rape will be commercially grown by European farmers within the next two years. And they are confident that it will reduce pesticide use because farmers will be able to spray crops to kill weeds without harming the rape itself, thus cutting down on multiple applications.

However, GeneWatch points to AgrEvos recent £70m investment to extend glufosinate production in Germany and the USA. But Des DSouza, AgrEvos product manager, said the additional £340m the firm expected to make from GM-related sales of glufosinate was not an issue.

"The GeneWatch report is sensationalist, unhelpful and offers no new information," he said. "This technology will not increase the amount of weedkiller used, just provide another option. The glufosinate production facilities are not in the UK and, so far as we are concerned, it is not a relevant argument." &#42