Support Continues for Biotechnologies

25 October 2010

Australians continue to strongly support biotechnologies that provide health and environmental benefits, but support for genetically modified (GM) foods has dropped slightly since 2007, a new survey has found.

The nation-wide study of community attitudes towards biotechnologies – conducted biannually over the past 10 years – was released today by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.

Biotechnologies of key interest to the public include genetic modification, cloning, stem cell research and using organisms to clean up pollution.

Dr Craig Cormick, from the Department’s National Enabling Technologies Strategy team said, “Of all the uses of biotechnology surveyed, the findings show that stem cell use remains the most accepted application, with the highest levels of perceived benefits (92 per cent) and one of the lowest levels of perceived risk (24 per cent).”

GM food remains among the least well-supported biotechnologies, although the public perceives the benefits (70 per cent) still outweigh the risks (48 per cent).

Over the past four years support for GM foods rose from 64 per cent in 2005 to 77 per cent in 2007. In 2009-10 it was at 67 per cent.

“It is actually getting harder to give a single figure for support or not for GM foods," Dr Cormick said.

“While 67 per cent say GM foods are acceptable, half of those opposed would change that position if there was long-term evidence of no harm being caused."

"And 45 per cent of those opposed to GM foods would change their position if labelling explained what ingredients had been modified and why.”

The study was conducted by independent company IPSOS Eureka Social Research Institute between December 2009 and June 2010 using focus groups and mixed telephone and computer polling of a random sample of more than 1,000 Australians aged 18 years and over. A report of the full findings is available.

For further information contact Dr Craig Cormick, National Enabling Technologies Strategy.
Phone: 02 6213 6805
Mobile: 0418 963 914