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Genetically Modified Crops: a US Farmer's Versus an EU Citizen's Point of View

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Genetically modified (GM) crops have been widely adopted by American farmers. Mainly two traits, herbicide resistance and insect resistance, constitute the area of GM crops. The commercial success of these crops derives from benefits in farm management and more generally from greater efficiency in production. European population surveys continue to show widespread opposition to GM crops and other applications of gene technology in food production. Danish focus group interviews reveal general concerns that seem to form the basis for the negative perception of GM crops. The aim of the paper is to explain why American farmers and European citizens adopt opposing attitudes to GM crops. It is argued that there is a clear conflict of interest between the two groups. At present GM crops provide no genuine benefits to the consumer, who is therefore unwilling to run even very small risks arising from the use of gene technology in food production. European citizens also connect GM crops with intensive agricultural practices, which are perceived as unsustainable. Here values may diverge, but discussion about sustainable agriculture is not primarily about GM crops: it is much broader.
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Keywords: Bt-resistant crops; bioethics; focus group interviews; genetic engineering; herbicide-resistant crops; public concerns

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-12-01

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