The Royal Society has announced that it can find no danger in eating GM
foods. The statement is unlikely to reverse consumers’ reluctance to eat GM
foods, but will put the onus on anti-GM campaigners to provide data to back
up their case. It will also help to shift the debate from the effects of GM
food on people to its effect on the environment.

The Royal Society has conducted a review of all research on how GM foods
might affect the human body, and concluded that, contrary to the fears of
many consumers, there is no more danger in eating GM foods than conventional
foods.

Consumers have long been wary of GM ingredients in their meals, to the
extent that many foodservice outlets and food manufacturers make a point of
offering GM-free foods. This fear has been built up by sensationalist media
treatments, e.g. ‘Franken-foods’, and by activist groups such as Greenpeace
that are committed to stopping the spread of GM technology.

The Royal Society specifically singled out Greenpeace, with the aim of
finding the evidence that would support the statement on their website that,
“the risks are enormous and the consequences potentially catastrophic”.

The Royal Society’s findings are unlikely to single-handedly reverse
consumers’ perceptions of GM food. The pro-GM argument needs to be presented
in the same clear fashion as the anti-GM position and avoid the use of
overly technical and scientific language if it is to persuade the general
public.

However, the Royal Society is a very prestigious body and its findings will
go some way to help turn the tide of public opinion on this matter. It is
likely that anti-GM pressure groups will now try to produce more research,
data and analysis to counter-back their position.

The most likely response from the anti-GM lobby will be to focus on issues
surrounding GM crops and the environment, as these were not addressed in the
Royal Society’s study. However, consumer concerns about the environment are
less immediate than those of consumption and so anti-GM lobbyists could find
their position weakened by the Royal Society’s conclusions.

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