The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)

 

General Public Concern Over GMOs in Europe.
Explanatory Factors Motivating the Rejection Movement: The French Case

Sylvie BONNY,
INRA
(French National Institute of Agricultural Research)
GRIGNON
FRANCE

The use of biotechnology in agriculture has led to a great controversy. The anti-GMO movement is strong in Europe and has spread to other non-European countries, recently even to the USA. This paper looks at the factors explaining the rejection movement in France where it is particularly strong. It is very often said that the rejection of GMOs is only the result of poor knowledge in biology and that the public and laymen only need to be educated. However, it is necessary to analyze the causes of GMO refusal more deeply and further: such is the goal of the paper which presents various mechanisms, actors and influences of this movement.

Beforehand the results of some recent opinion surveys show the levels of acceptation and the levels of rejection in various countries over the world. An important factor which led to the opposition movement is the strong publicity focusing on the potential risks: many associations have emphasized and are emphasizing the risks of GMOs. They have had a strong influence and have often seen their worries reflected in the media, with insufficient answers to these criticisms. So multiple risks are suspected in multiple fields. Another important factor is that the GMO advantages / risks balance sheet has been (and is) perceived as being very imbalanced. In addition, for many people, GMOs seem to crystallize wider worries about the general running of the society (such as a limited confidence in the institutions and in the firms involved). And GMOs are often seen as a symbol of negatively perceived trends. Thus the development of transgenic crops has almost been stopped in the European Union (except for some acreage of Bt corn in Spain) until now: can some changes be envisaged for the future?


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