FSA: Report exploring attitudes to GM food published

London / UK. (fsa) The British Food Standards Agency (FSA) is publishing findings of a qualitative research project commissioned to explore public attitudes to genetic modification (GM). This report is timely and will be considered by the independent steering group that has been set up to shape and carry out the forthcoming GM Dialogue that the FSA has been asked to lead on, on behalf of government. This work was carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), an independent research organisation, and was a qualitative piece of work designed to:

  • explore why people hold particular views on GM food
  • better understand how people´s attitudes to GM food are formed
  • explore how people weigh up the risks and benefits associated with GM food
  • and explore the circumstances in which people change their views

The FSA commissioned this work to complement a series of questions on food technologies, including GM foods, in the British Social Attitudes Survey 2008 (BSA). The results of the BSA are expected in early 2010. GM is not a static issue; science moves on and the context of discussions about GM has changed since the Government asked people what they thought in 2003. The FSA is committed to giving consumers accurate information, based on scientific evidence, and helping people to make informed choices about the food they eat. This research found different levels of understanding about GM food. Attitudes to GM food are complex and the risks and benefits of GM food are weighed up differently depending on the factors that underpin views.

  • Exploring attitudes to GM food: executive summary (PDF, 288 KB)
  • Exploring attitudes to GM food: executive summary (PDF, 1’097 KB)

The science behind the story

In its broadest sense, social science is the study of society and the manner in which people behave and impact on the world around them. This includes looking at particular aspects of society or human nature, for example sociology, psychology, anthropology, social geography and economics.
Social scientists gather evidence in different ways, such as collecting and analysing statistics, gathering responses to questionnaires and interviews, and the systematic observation of human behaviour.
Qualitative research allows researchers to explore understanding and attitudes, in depth, with people in a range of circumstances. It is able to uncover, map and explain attitudes and behaviours and underpinning factors and is useful when asking «What?», «How?» and «Why?» questions.
Quantitative research provides information relating to the numbers of people holding particular views. It is able to measure the extent and strength of associations and measure trends. This type of research is useful when asking «What?», «How many?», «Where?» and «How often?» questions.
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