48% of people globally say GM crops ‘unsafe to eat,’ Pew survey shows

Credit: Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

A 20-public median of 48% say genetically modified, or GM, foods are unsafe to eat, while a much smaller median of 13% say GM foods are safe. The survey included an option for people with limited familiarity about GM foods to indicate this; a median of 37% say they don’t know enough to offer a view about the safety of GM foods.

Majorities in places such as Russia (70%), Italy (62%), India (58%) and South Korea (57%) view GM foods as generally unsafe to eat. The balance of opinion tilts negative even in places where sizable shares say they don’t know enough about GM foods to offer a view. For example, 47% of Spaniards say GM foods are unsafe, while just 13% say they are safe to eat. Australia is the only place surveyed where at least as many view GM foods as safe as view them to be unsafe (31% to 31%).

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The introduction of genetically modified crops and other developments in biotechnology have dramatically changed agriculture and food production in many parts of the world in recent decades. Some worry about possible health implications from these new practices, though that view is at odds with scientific consensus. A 2016 report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine highlighted a consensus among scientific experts in the United States that GM foods are safe. In 2019, an expert panel in Japan came to the same conclusion.

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