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Have GM crops and food a future in Europe?

Gaskell, G., Stares, S. & Fischler, C. (2013). Have GM crops and food a future in Europe? In: Successful Agricultural Innovation in Emerging Economies: New Genetic Technologies for Global Food Production. (pp. 331-347). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9781139208475.024


Intensive mono-functional agriculture, typical across many European Member States, is designed to increase the efficiency and productivity of the agricultural sector. This is accompanied by frequent spraying of crops with chemicals for protection against pests and diseases. While the health and environmental impacts of pesticides and their residues are debated among scientific experts, in the minds of European citizens they constitute the most significant food risk. The Eurobarometer public opinion survey on Food-Related Risks commissioned by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2010 looked at risk perceptions in two ways. First, an open-ended question which invited respondents to say ‘what comes to mind when they think about possible problems and risks associated with food and eating’, and second a closed question asked respondents to rate the extent to which they worry about 17 food-related risks, including pesticides in fruit and vegetables (EFSA, 2010). The most frequent response to the open question was ‘chemicals and pesticides’, mentioned spontaneously by 17% of Europeans – 7% mentioned genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In the closed question 74% of Europeans say they are fairly or very worried about pesticides in fruit and vegetables – the highest percentage of worry across 17 food risks. Sixty-seven per cent say they are fairly or very worried about GMOs. The 2010 survey replicated a number of questions from EFSA’s first Risk Issues Eurobarometer in 2005 (EFSA, 2005). The findings on worry about pesticides in fruit and vegetables show an increase of 4% over the period – 12 countries show a 4% or more increase in worry, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, The Netherlands and Sweden. Overall, it appears that pesticides in fruit and vegetables are not only the top concern among Europeans, but also an increasing concern.

Publication Type: Book Section
Publisher Keywords: GM crops, pesticides, environmental impact, GMOs risks,
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
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