Slippery subject

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
September 30, 2010, 7:51 PM GMT+0

The British public is divided over whether genetically modified food should be approved for safe human consumption, our recent poll on the controversial subject has found.

  • The biggest percentage (37%) thinks that so long as genetically modified food has been approved by the authorities, it should be allowed.
  • 33%, however, think that GM foods are potentially dangerous and should not be permitted.
  • 16% said that neither solution best represented their view on the subject.

Salmon: a debate

Genetically modified foods have hit the headlines recently as the US is seriously debating allowing genetically modified salmon to be commercially sold as safe to eat. As well as defending its suitability for human consumption, supporters argue that as GM salmon grows at double the speed of its conventionally farmed counterparts, its use would lower the cost of salmon farming. Also, by lessening the pressure on wild fish, supporters argue, increased GM production would actually help increase wild salmon numbers.

Critics flatly disagree. One such opponent is Senator Begich, who told the BBC that ‘approval of genetically modified salmon, the first such hybrid to be considered for human consumption, is unprecedented, risky and a threat to the survival of wild species.’ He said the right name for ‘this genetically engineered fish’ is ‘Frankenfish’, which could ‘lead to the creation of mutant, misshapen fish, and could harm wild fish populations if they escape.’

‘Major new biotechnology’

While the production of GM fish is still illegal in the UK, former Science Minister Lord Sainsbury has called for the debate on genetically modified crops to be re-opened. He argues that ‘to rule out GM, which is this major new biotechnology, would be very foolish.’ Our data shows the verdict is still out on this slippery subject.

Survey details and full results