Konrad Niklewicz, Gazeta Wyborcza, 2008-03-12

Poles' GMO-related anxieties are stronger than their enthusiasm for things European. As many as two in three Poles wouldn't buy GMO foods even if they were significantly cheaper than traditional products.

Sixty percent of Poles believe that eating GMO foods can be harmful for your health, according to a PBS DGA poll conducted for Gazeta this weekend.

Nor do Poles want GMO plants to be cultivated in Poland. One in two would support a ban on the cultivation of such plants even if that were to mean higher food prices.

 

Environment Minister Maciej Nowicki, who is an opponent of GMO foods and who initiated the GMO debate in Gazeta, welcomed the poll's results. 'The Polish public has yet again showed wisdom and caution towards things we aren't prepared for and know little about. This is the prudence principle working'. Minister Nowicki believes the poll's results strengthen his own position - not only in the cabinet, but also in talks with the European Commission.

Poland and Brussels have been in a legal dispute over GMO for months. The Commission filed a lawsuit against Poland in the European Tribunal of Justice for passing a law banning GMO seeds and animal fodders. Poland responded with a counter-suit.

Poles are known in Europe for their euroenthusiasm. And yet as many as 45 percent said it was worth maintaining the GMO ban 'even if it means a conflict with the European Commission'. Some 37 percent thought otherwise.

The results don't come as a surprise for scientists defending GMO technologies. 'The poll confirms the findings of earlier ones. But economic development isn't something you decide in a plebiscite!' said Professor Tomasz Twardowski, molecular biologist at the Polish Academy of Sciences' Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, head of the Polish Biotechnology Federation.

Mr Twardowski believes a major awareness-building campaign is needed.

But Poles won't be easy to convince. Even financial arguments don't seem to work - 66 percent of respondents wouldn't buy a GMO product even if it was 'significantly cheaper' than a traditional one.

The resistance softens a little if the GMO ban were to mean across-the-board food price rises. But even then 49 percent of respondents say the ban should be upheld, with 34 percent saying otherwise.

Poles aren't the exception here. The support for GMO is as low, if not lower, in Austria (only 25 percent in favour), France (29 percent), Latvia (19 percent), let alone Greece (12 percent). At the other end of the scale are Spain (74 percent of the public accepting GMO), Portugal (65 percent), and Ireland (55 percent).

translated by Marcin Wawrzyńczak

Konrad Niklewicz

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