Staff Reporter

However, the survey suggests low awareness about GM foods

NEW DELHI: An overwhelming majority – 89 per cent – of people say that they have the right to protest or reject government decisions on genetically modified foods (GM foods), revealed a citizens' opinion poll released by Greenpeace recently. The poll on genetically modified foods intended to understand citizens' awareness and preferences related to GM foods, their trust on regulatory agencies and their right to say no. The government declared a moratorium on Bt. brinjal but the proposed Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill (BRAI) 2009, proposes drastic changes in the regulatory system, which takes away the right to say no to GM foods.

The poll then gives a much needed perspective on citizens' views on GM foods. As part of the survey 5,599 citizens across various socio-economic levels, age, literacy levels and income groups in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Guwahati and Indore were interviewed.

The results suggest that awareness about GM foods was low compared with other environment or public issues.

“About 33 per cent of the people have heard about either Bt. brinjal or GM foods. Only 27 per cent say they understand what genetically modified foods are. Most importantly, only 21 per cent women know about GM foods even though they are the decision makers on food issues in households,'' said the report. The survey also pointed out that the lower income groups knew very little about GM foods or Bt. brinjal. ``Irrespective of their awareness or knowledge levels, a majority (69 per cent) want packaged food to declare through labelling whether or not it contains genetically modified organisms. Sixty-one per cent people want labelling on unpackaged foods as well. A majority of the respondents, almost 78 per cent, stated that they have the right to information on all aspects of GM crops.'' Companies which produce GM foods are not trusted by a majority of the people indicated the poll while only 36 per cent people trusted them.

``A majority 80 per cent preferred an independent, impartial government agency to test or certify GM foods. Overwhelming 89 per cent citizens said they believed that they have the right to protest or reject government decisions related to the commercialisation of genetically modified foods. This was regardless of their stance on the issue,'' noted the survey.