The use and value of polling to determine public opinion on GMOs in Europe: Limitations and ways forward
In this article, we review and assess existing surveys that attempt to gauge public opinion about GM crops. This review shows that consumer surveys can be something of a blunt instrument. Questionnaires, however well-constructed and professionally delivered, are answered in a vacuum of knowledge and elicit misleading responses. People recurrently admit they lack information on the technology behind GM food. It is a part of the general unfamiliarity with the food production process with which people show equal, if not greater, concern. Lacking control over a process involving such an emotive subject like food makes people uneasy and reluctant to accept “unknowns”. In addition, if people give answers to hypothetical questions, they do so as “cautious citizens” rather than consumers and this is not a good guide to actual behavior in real life. Qualitative studies using focus groups can be a much better guide to how people really feel about issues, but they also need expert facilitation and analysis to be of real value. An even better guide to acceptance and purchasing behavior (if that is the objective) is to put people in a situation where they are actually making a choice of whether or not to buy GM products.