22 March 1996

Survey reveals biotech fears

ETHICAL and labelling concerns are the two largest fears among consumers viewing the advance of biotechnology in the UK.

But over two-thirds of the population admitted knowing nothing about it (68%), according to a survey carried out by the Food and Drink Federation.

Of all adults questioned, 22% said they would be extremely likely to or would probably buy products resulting from the application of modern technology.

The survey found more than two-thirds felt farmers and growers would benefit most from it over the next five years, while half expected food firms to gain.

It also revealed that people are more likely to support continuing development for plant applications than for animal applications.

Joanna Scott, FDF head of external relations, said the best way forward was to have a full and open debate, enabling people to benefit both socially and economically from biotechnology.

Delegates at a conference on food and modern biotechnology – held as part of National Science Week – were given an update on the debate in Europe. Euro MPs voted last week to amend the novel foods regulation, saying labelling rules should go beyond the labelling directive where:

lThe food differs from an equivalent existing food or ingredient.

lThere could be health implications.

lThere may be ethical concerns.

lThere is a genetically modified organism present.