Europeans aren’t too keen on eating Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). A Eurobarometer opinion poll carried out in 2010 found that 59% of Europeans believe that GM food is not safe for their health and that of their family. An even larger majority (70%) say that genetically modifying foods is “fundamentally unnatural”, and 61% say that GMOs make them “feel uneasy”.

Debating Europe is running a series of debates called Food for Thought, looking at everything from animal welfare and the economics of the food industry, to food safety and GMOs. For this debate, we want to take a look at attitudes towards GM foods across Europe.

Want more background information about GMOs? Check out our infobox “Arguments for and against GMOs?” and read some of the key issues on both sides of the debate!

We had a comment sent in from Karl, who argues that Europe’s “uneasy” attitude towards GM foods is causing us a competitive disadvantage:

citizen_icon_180x180Europe is experiencing a ‘brain drain’ to other countries with its restrictive policies on [GM foods]. When public and political sentiments change, EU countries may be playing catch-up while paying companies in other countries for the technologies being developed there – that could have been developed in the EU. Something to think about.

Yet Karl makes a big assumption there: that European attitudes towards GMOs are ever likely to change.

To get a reaction, we spoke to Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, whose responsibilities include reviewing the laws around GMOs. Did he think that public opinion towards GM foods was likely to change?

To get another perspective, we also spoke to Benedek Jávor, a Hungarian MEP with the Group of Greens in the European Parliament, and a biologist and academic with a focus on the environment. Did he think that public attitudes towards GMOs in Europe were likely to change?

javorIt’s difficult to say if public opinion is going to be changed soon or not. I have a scientific background in biology, which means I am not completely against technological development, even in biotechnology. But, to be honest, with GMOs I think there are a lot of open questions that science is not able to answer. And the concern of European citizens, consumers, NGOs, and farmers organisations are rightly that they will go to market without having the proper studies undertaken on their environmental and health impact, which means that consumers are being used as a huge laboratory to test how GMOs behave in our bodies and environment.

GMOs will be present in the markets for decades, so it’s not enough to have limited studies of several months, we need long-run studies on the environmental and health impacts, because once the GMOs are out there it will be impossible to push the genie back in the bottle. So, we have to be very careful and we have bad experiences with technologies like CFCs or some medical drugs which we believed would be a good idea to push onto the market, before finally realising we had created something extremely dangerous for the global environment and public health…

Why are Europeans scared of GMOs? Can European public opinion over GMOs be changed? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

47 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

    • avatar
      Tom Patterson

      You do realise the website you have linked to describes 5 different colours of carrot and why they are different colours and that it has nothing to do with GM…. right


    • avatar

      Yes and that was done naturally, not genetically changing the dna of seeds and planting fields of “safe” gmo crops that then cross pollinate and contaminate nearby wildlife such as mother monarch butterfly.

    • avatar

      Tom spelled realize wrong

  1. avatar
    Paolo Viti

    Remember always that behind the GMO is just disgusting business and dirty speculation! The word health and fair trade is completely foreign for EU! Please let’s stop with patetic lies!!!!

  2. avatar
    Valentino Celeghin

    But also, why is there so little information in countries and continents where they are not scared of GMO???

    • avatar

      So many Americans are not afraid of GMOs and are also VERY sick with diet related diseases.

  3. avatar

    The problem with GMO is biodiversity. For exemple bees are already disapparating, what will happen if we will introduce GMO? Things will be worst. I know that this problem already exists. If bees and other kind of insects and vegetables are in danger , it’s also beacause of herbicides. Beside that there is also an economic issue. If we introduce GMO, big companies will be able to control the food market, because developping GMO is very expensive and they are the only ones, who have the resources to do it. For that reasons I think that we can’t open our market to GMO without having some kind of regulation. For exemple I think that GMO vegatables should be registered only under special licences, such free licenses (e.g. the one used for the unix OS).

  4. avatar

    Does it matter if were scared? Does it matter if it poisens you? NO
    Brussels doesnt give a hoot what europeans think or want, the bags of cash have traded hands and monsanto prevails yet again.
    Why even bother with these debates , brussels/eurogroup or whatever they call themselves consider the people of the eu “doormats”.

  5. avatar
    Paulo Neves Cortesao

    Our Genotype is the potential we have to be what’s inside our DNA sequence. Phenotype is the DNA expression and it depends of a lot conditions like what we eat, drink, environment where we live.
    We are what we eat, drink and the result of how we decide to live.

    Behind the GMOs industry there are almost just economics interests and a numbers question.

    There are other type of agriculture technology, maybe less efficient but more ecological, sustainable and favors to maintain the biodiversity.

    The question is what we want in EU???
    A) an agricultural policy just for make money or
    B) an agricultural policy for maintain the biodiversity, different cultures and products, more ecological and sustainable???

    Maybe this questions are coming out just for help to approve the TTIP accord with US…

  6. avatar
    Gitte Olsen

    Why do you make the assumption that it is because they are scared? Who is i denial and who is the ignorant when it comes to GMO.

  7. avatar
    Inaam HS

    What a question… because nobody wants their kids to have cancer and die.

  8. avatar
    Wojtek Steifer

    To wynika z kompletnej niewiedzy oraz kłamstw i manipulacji przeciwników GMO, często wspieranych przez producentów środków ochrony roślin, którzy straciliby swoje miliardowe dochody przy upowszechnieniu GMO…

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Wojtek Stiffler
      GMOs in theory are a good idea BUT in practice the economic imperative [AKA Crapitalism] means that they are NOT comprehensively tested thus problems like bt Cotton and worse are already evident!

  9. avatar
    Jerome Fitz

    I think we have to think about natural agriculture without pesticides, organic products and fair trade instead of GMOs, pesticides…

  10. avatar

    I’m a bit shocked by the way you ask the question (why are Europeans scared of GMO). This does not sound very neutral to me. As if it was quite of ridiculous to be afraid of GMO. Next time please rather ask something like What do you think of GMO. Thanks

  11. avatar
    EU reform- proactive

    Without any doubt- for me- the winner between: “Arguments for and against GMOs” is clear & contained in the AGAINST column! Why, and what is the motive for self sufficient countries to mess up their environment to feed the whole world? Profit?Let’s understand & separate various issues behind GMO’s:

    • Support for pure science & research- yes
    • New scientific inventions used commercially, given unchecked access to secure monopolies, dependency, entrench high profits for some & poverty for others- under false pretenses. (“Feeding the world”- holy moly!)- No!
    • A scientific needs & risk analysis made by each country (if only option for survival is GMO’s) to determine all possible future effects & consequences on its people & nature. (We know enough!)
    • Powers by corporations to enforce GMO & (legal) powers over governments as a (hidden) package under TTIP is unethical politics, rejected and must never become reality. It need to be the opposite!
    • True & sufficient information for citizens who make the final & binding democratic choice- not bureaucrats & lawyers .
    • So far, the majority is against GMO- with good reasons- which must be respected! Politicians must not try to outsmart us & smuggle GMO’s through the back door!

  12. avatar
    Miguel Silva

    There are natural ways of producing the same or even more without GMO or pesticides.

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      This link proves- the “precious 666 EU fellowship” under JCJ “Sméagol/Gollum are preparing anti small organic farmer, anti consumer and pro corporate laws to prepare a smooth road for GMO’s in the EU! This clearly shows their twisted concern for consumers!

      #”This fellowship must fall”

  13. avatar
    Ljiljana Lili Ravnjak

    We don’t need GMO produce in Europe as we can more than ADEQUTELY grow ENOUGH food to feed our populations many times over with CONTEMPORARY methods.

  14. avatar
    Babette Babich

    because they want all these kinds of foods. Plus the unneededness … apart from corporate profit … of GMOs which have delivered none of the promised benefits. Its just a deal to sterilize seeds.

  15. avatar
    Lexxion Publisher

    NB: Our latest EFFL (European Food and Feed Law Review) issue was dedicated to food safety. Take a glance at it. bit.ly/1Qc0MHd

  16. avatar
    Jose Quintans

    Proprietary biological information? Not a good deal for the mass market, as it would substitute the free biological information.

  17. avatar

    GMO’s are an experiment, we do not know enough about Genetics to ensure 100% safety when we produce such things for human consumption. It is also very irresponsible to release these Frankenstein Plants into nature as these genetics will surely spread to non GMO plants. Yes GMO’s are a opportunity to create amazing new plants but the private sector is thinking about profits more than security, let safety minded scientists invent cool new plants in a secure environment and lets see how future generations of such plants survive or if the genetics fail at some point vs natural plants whose genetics have developed over millions of years and are therefore dependable.

  18. avatar
    Summer Breeze

    Europeans are better informed about these issues. Europeans give a lot of importance to what they eat; it has to be healthy.

  19. avatar
    catherine benning

    Why Europeans must be totally afraid of GMO’s. They are without doubt poison.


    And here is another eye opener.


    Europeans be very afraid and stay that way. The money men are poisoning us. The Americans are as fat as pigs and the reason is the food they eat is contaminated and killing them, slowly or is it so slow?

    This thread is really all about TTIP the yanks are pushing ‘our leaders’ to accept contaminated food for us to devour massivlely in a contract that will sue our government if they don’t import it for us to enjoy.

    And as an added bonus for the TTIP pushers, we in the UK are being threatened that should we boycott Israeli products we will be incarcerated. No kidding. Forced to buy shite we don’t want.


    How can this be lawful? How are we British be ruled by Israel on what we choose to purchase? Their lobbyists must be offering big big perks. Two free weeks at the King David Hotel no doubt. Historically that’s a very good place to use for the British top brass to stay, is it not?


    Makes you think of todays courts in Germany.

  20. avatar

    Stop over egging this issue some people could not care less. Its more interference by EU officials and politicking that makes this such a great issue

  21. avatar

    “Why are Europeans scared of GMOs?”

    For the same reason they love homoeopathy and similar pre-modern horseshit. Well, I guess we’re all entitled to some bogeyman or the other. Americans have their creationism and similar religious nonsense to provide simple, soothing certainties in the face of increasing complexity. With the religious delusion being a bit too outdated in Europe, we have to resort to esoterism, homoeopathy, and, last but not least hating, GMO, anything to do with ‘nuclear’ and of course everything else that’s deemed ‘unnatural’ (i.e. anything too complex to be understood by instinct and more than a cursory survey undisturbed by factual knowledge).

  22. avatar
    Michael W. Lassalle

    We need a paradigm change, because GMO`s are an ill defined caterogy (Tagliabue, G. Embo Reports, 2016, 17(1): 10-13). The decrease in critical and scientific literacy and increase in faith based ideology is another problem. Open databases could regain the trust of the consumers. The scientist should get involved more.
    Adjusted Organism, a new term that includes gmo`s and GMOs, enables unbiased discussion about genetically modified organism.
    “Public Misunderstanding of Genetically Modified Organisms: How Science and Society are Interconnected”
    Let us discuss with a scientific mindset and not based upon ideological believes.

  23. avatar
    Patricia K

    I think that most people can agree that new things, or unknown things, are scary. The unknown makes us feel uneasy and we rather choose something we are familiar with. In this case, GMO is the new and scary thing, and the traditional way of growing plants is the “comforting” and “safe way”.
    There is actually not much research done about how GMO affects us as humans. There was one study where scientist Gilles-Eric Seralini feed GM corn to rats, that resulted in that the animals developed large cancerous tumors. It was later announced that they could not confirm that the tumors were side effect of the GM corn. There are a lot of researchers done about how GM crops affect its surroundings, and the result often shows that GM crops have a bad impact on its surrounding nature.
    GMO is scary to a lot of people because they do not know much about it. And a lot of times we only hear or see the bad side of the story. I personally think that GMO should not be used in any way, until we are 100% sure that it can, and will not, harm any animals, plants or us human.

  24. avatar

    While there are good things to gmo’s, there can also be great consequences.

  25. avatar
    Chloe K.

    We had to read this for science class and I think that it is extremely rude to describe an entire continent as having an unanimous opinion. Not all Europeans feel this way!

  26. avatar

    they are scared of gmos and need to learn why they are harmless.

  27. avatar

    they are scared of gmos and need to learn why they are harmless. ;lksdjflkashdgjflksa;dhl

  28. avatar

    GMO isn’t as bad as you would naturally think. It has prevented the usage of some dangerous pesticides. On top of that it prevents the damage of the Earth’s layer. Look at some of the good benefit instead of the bad.

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