As the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill gets its second reading in the House of Lords, a new poll shows that the vast majority of UK adults think GMOs in the farming and food system should be regulated, traceable and labelled.

Commissioned by Beyond GM, the YouGov Poll found that 79% of UK adults think precision bred crops, animals and foods should be clearly labelled; 83% think precision bred organisms should undergo safety testing; 80% think they should undergo environmental safety testing; and 79% think they should be traceable.

The bill – which only applies to England – creates a new subclass of GMOs called Precision Bred Organisms (PBOs), which the UK Government says doesn’t need to be regulated, assessed, traceable, labelled or monitored once in the food system. This, says Beyond GM, enables GMO developers to self-certify the safety and fitness of their organisms and places minimal restrictions on the planting of PBOs.

People’s unfamiliarity with the term ‘precision bred organism’ is … proportionate to how disconnected and excluded so many feel from the regulatory debate

Beyond GM adds that public awareness of the term ‘precision bred organism’ – which doesn’t exist in legislation anywhere else in the world – is low, and although 87% of UK adults knew the term GMO, 83% of those had never heard of a PBO.

“People’s unfamiliarity with the term ‘precision bred organism’ is, we believe, proportionate to how disconnected and excluded so many feel from the regulatory debate,” says Beyond GM Director Pat Thomas. “This lack of awareness has become a justification for Government and the Food Standards Agency to engage in what it calls public education. The problem is that this public education is invariably more like indoctrination, providing only the narrative and the information that the government wants citizens to have.”

The poll also found that 40% of UK adults were opposed to having lower regulations for PBOs than for other types of GMOs, 44% would prefer their food not to contain GMOs and 42% said they would prefer their food products not to contain PBOs.

“This is a technically and scientifically flawed bill,” states Thomas. “It fails to take into account the longstanding unease and scepticism that UK adults express towards all kinds of GMOs, and it fails to understand the complexity and interconnectedness of UK farming, environmental and food laws. Peers now have an opportunity to give the bill the scrutiny it did not get in the Commons and to make the significant amendments that civil society is calling for, especially around labelling, traceability and environmental safety.”

Image credit: Beyond GM