An Assessment of Factors determining Disparities in the Perception of GM Foods
The controversy surrounding genetically modified foods does not seem to end any time soon because different parts of the world seem to hold different perspectives towards the issue. Europeans and the Japanese have the most negative attitude towards GM foods while the Americans and many people from developing countries, such as China and Columbia have a positive attitude towards GM foods. Curtis et al. attribute the negative perception towards GM foods in Europe to unknown health and environmental consequences that include allergic responses, toxicity to wildlife, and the widespread pest resistance to wild plants (Curtis et al. 70). On the contrary, Li et al. attribute the positive attitude towards GM foods in developing countries, such as China and Columbia to the reduction in the usage of pesticides and herbicides (145). The two opposing sides seem to read from two different scripts. On the one hand, the European people and the Japanese seem to evaluate the negative effects of GM foods. On the other hand, most people from developing countries and the USA seem to evaluate the positive effects of GM foods. This paper evaluates the main factors that cause the disparity in the perception of GM foods in different parts of the world. The issue is an important one because it helps in understanding the controversy and looking for a way forward.
The phrase GM food refers to the plants developed in laboratories for consumption by both human beings and animals. Such plants are resistant to some aspects that affect other types of plants. As such, these plants can withstand some harsh conditions that other types of plants cannot withstand. Specifically, such plants are resistant to drought, pests, and cold. At the same time, the food coming from such plants has higher nutritional values in comparison to other types of food. Traditionally, the development of such plants took place through breeding. This process was time-consuming and did not yield higher returns in comparison to GM food (Whitman 1). In this respect, some people appreciate the benefits of GM foods, thereby; they have positive attitudes towards them. On the contrary, other people oppose such foods based on the possible effects they might have on their health and the environment. The differences in the perception towards GM foods are widespread with different regions having different perceptions. Some of the differences emanate from the media coverage of the issue, regulation of GM food, and the differences in the perceptions of scientific development in improving the lives of the people.
While evaluating the disparity towards GM foods in Europe and USA, Gaskell et al addressed the issue of policy formation, the influence of scientific developments in improving the lives of the people, and media coverage in the two regions. The researchers established that the high media coverage of the negative aspects of the issue in Europe resulted in a negative attitude towards GM foods in the region. Their argument was that the high media coverage during the technological controversy in Europe resulted in a negative attitude towards the same (Gaskell et al. 385). On the contrary, they argued that the low media coverage of the issue in the USA resulted in a positive public attitude towards the issue. With respect to the regulation of GM foods, Americans favored the government in regulating GM foods while Europeans favored international bodies. At the same time, Americans were optimistic towards scientific developments in improving their lives while the Europeans held on to their traditions (Gaskell et al. 385). The evaluation of the controversy surrounding GM foods in the two regions from this perspective is an important one because it evaluates the issue depending on the information available to the people. It also evaluates the different aspects that cause the differences in perceptions towards GM foods in the two different regions.
Whitman specializes in the controversy of GM foods in the USA. On one side, he presents the negative effects of GM foods on both human beings and animals. On the other side, he evaluates the issue by providing its positive effects. While this approach may seem controversial, it provides the information one requires to make an informed decision about GM foods. Whitman provides some of the advantages the GM foods have on both human beings and animals. According to him, the use of GM foods would result in pest-resistant crops that would result in minimal usage of pesticides. The developed crops would also be herb tolerant thereby farmers would not use herbicides. Such crops would as well be resistant to diseases, drought, and cold thereby they would increase food production. Their nutritional values would also be higher than food from other types of crops, thus, they would enhance the nutritional value of foods. On the contrary, Whitman cites the unintended harm of GM crops as some of the negative effects of GM foods. Other negative effects include the ineffectiveness of pesticides and herbicides, the transfer of genes to non-targeted crop species, and unknown effects on human health (Whitman 7).
On the other hand, while Li et al. evaluate the positive attitude towards GM foods in China, the researchers acknowledge the fact that the Chinese government through its ministry of agriculture regulates the introduction of GM foods in the Chinese markets. In this response, the Chinese government requires all the GM foods entering the country to be labeled and confirmed safe for human consumption. With regard to the influence of the media on the consumption of GM foods in China, the researchers conclude that the government’s positive control of the media has a positive influence on GM foods (Li et al. 151). This is in contrast to the negative effects the media has on the perception of GM foods in Europe.
Finally, Curtis et al. evaluate the acceptance of GM foods across the world and specifically in the developing countries and established that consumers would buy such foods if only offered at lower prices than the non-GM foods. Despite this fact, European and Japanese consumers remain skeptical about the issue and they would be cautious when buying GM foods. Curtis and his colleagues go a notch higher and evaluate some of the factors that affect the perception towards the consumption of GM foods. They establish that the trust in the government, media coverage, and perception towards scientific discoveries are among the major factors that influence the consumption of GM foods in both developed and developing countries (Curtis et al. 71). With regard to the trust in the government in regulating GM foods, Gaskell et al found that Europeans did not have confidence in their governments regulating GM foods. Instead, the Europeans preferred the international bodies to regulate GM foods as opposed to their governments (Gaskell et al. 386). On the contrary, both the Americans and the Chinese people that have a positive attitude towards the GM foods trust their governments in regulating GM foods. With regard to the perception towards scientific discoveries, the Europeans and Japanese are more sensitive to their cultural practices than the Americans and Chinese. Consequently, the Europeans and Japanese do not trust scientific discoveries in changing their lives as the Americans and Chinese people do. At the same time, the regulated media coverage in China enhances the positive view of GM foods (Curtis et al. 72). On the contrary, the uncontrolled and extensive media coverage of GM foods in Europe results in a negative attitude towards GM foods. Among other things, Curtis et al. conclude that the aspect of the nutritional value of the GM foods and food availability enhances the positive attitude towards GM foods in developing countries.
With respect to the above analysis, all the researchers evaluate the differences in the perception towards GM foods. They indicate a possible market for GM foods in both the USA and developing countries, such as China and Columbia. They also evaluate the influence of scientific development in different parts of the world and establish that scientific developments have great influences on the perception of GM foods in the USA and developing countries. On the contrary, the influence of the scientific developments in Europe is insignificant thereby the perception of the Europeans towards GM food is negative.
The evaluation of GM foods from the above perspectives is very important when evaluating the controversy surrounding GM foods in the world. On one hand, it evaluates the attitude of GM foods in the USA, which is a developed nation, in relation to the developing countries such as China. While doing this, the researchers do not show any impartiality in the two nations. In fact, they establish that both China and the USA have a positive attitude towards GM foods. This approach establishes that the perception towards GM foods results from factors other than the differences in the development of the nations. On the other hand, the researchers evaluate the influence of the regional differences towards GM foods. They establish that regional differences are important aspects for consideration when evaluating the GM food controversy. Such an approach is a good one when analyzing the controversy surrounding GM foods because it does not discriminate against the development of the nations. In addition, it provides information from different perspectives. The evaluation of the controversy surrounding GM foods is an important one to me because it provides the information I require to make an informed decision about GM foods. I understand how I would approach the issue based on the information I have right now. Consequently, providing this knowledge to other people would enhance their understanding of GM foods. It would also enhance their approach to the issue from an informed perspective.
Curtis, Kynda et al. Consumer acceptance of genetically modified food products in the developing world, AgBioForum, 7.1 (2004), 70-75.
Gaskell, George et al. Worlds apart? The reception of genetically modified foods in Europe and the U.S., Science, 285.5426 (199), 384-387.
Li, Quan et al. Consumer attitudes toward genetically modified foods in Beijing, China, AgBioForum, 5.4 (2002), 145-152.
Whitman, Deborah. Genetically modified foods: harmful or helpful? CSA Discovery guides.