Research confronts ‘yucky’ attitudes about genetically engineered meals

Is a non-browning apple much less “natural” than non-fat milk? In one case, individuals have injected one thing into apple DNA to prevent it from turning brown after it’s reduce. In the opposite, individuals used know-how to take away one thing that seems naturally in milk.

The query of what constitutes “naturalness” — and customers’ attitudes about it — lies on the coronary heart of Washington University in St. Louis analysis from lead writer Sydney Scott, assistant professor of promoting within the Olin Business School. The paper, titled “An Overview of Attitudes Toward Genetically Engineered Foods,” was revealed final month within the Annual Review of Nutrition.

Plants in laboratory. Image credit score: Pixnio, CC0 Public Domain

“It’s an overview of where we are,” stated Scott, who beforehand revealed analysis on the “moralization” of genetically modified meals and the position of client “disgust” of their consumption. “It’s looking at the state of what’s been done in the regulatory landscape and the research in understanding attitudes.”

Poking round within the DNA

The upshot of the team’s work is that after greater than 20 years of development in genetic engineering in agriculture, customers have largely remained skeptical, even to the purpose of being “grossed out” by the thought.

“In some contexts, people view nature and naturalness as sacred and genetically engineered food as a violation of naturalness,” the authors wrote. The prevailing analysis additionally reveals that buyers observe “the magical law of contagion” — the concept the slightest contact between pure meals and one thing else contaminates it. Thus, a housefly’s wing in a bowl of soup renders all the serving inedible.

What the analysis overview doesn’t handle, nevertheless, is why some customers appear to be positive with closely processed meals — Hamburger Helper, frozen microwave dinners, or maple-flavored “pancake syrup” — however can not abide genetically engineered meals such as weed-resistant soybeans, vitamin A-enriched rice, or fast-growing salmon.

“Consumers seem to be saying it’s not OK to poke into the DNA. That’s yucky,” Scott stated. “People are grossed out by that.”

Scott stated the Annual Review commissioned the overview of analysis findings. “We were hoping it would provide a useful synthesis of what we know to a broad audience — the risks and benefits of this technology, what people think and why? — and highlight the importance of this pro-naturalness context.”

Regulation and attitudes

Through their evaluate of the literature, the researchers famous that prior work recognized 4 governmental approaches to regulating genetically modified crops, starting from promotional to permissive to precautionary to preventative. For instance, the United States tends to have a permissive strategy, grows numerous genetically modified crops, and says they’re “generally recognized as safe.”

By distinction, the European Union is restrictive in its strategy, permitting solely two genetically engineered crops to be grown commercially — potatoes and maize — and even these usually are not grown for human consumption “due to consumer resistance,” in response to the analysis paper.

Yet globally, the increase in genetically engineered crops has grown to cowl half of U.S. cropland and 12 % of whole cropland — principally in North and South America and Asia. At the identical time, worldwide gross sales of natural meals has climbed from about $15.2 billion in 1999 to $90 billion in 2016.

A key purpose of the analysis team’s work was to show the hole between advocates of genetically engineered meals and opponents. Scott stated, “This won’t be solved by just taking into account the scientific information,” which reveals genetically engineered meals don’t have any adversarial results on the atmosphere or human health. “When we’re communicating with people about this technology, to have a successful conversation, we have to realize that.”

“What we’re trying to figure out now is what will allow people to reach a better consensus,” Scott stated. “I don’t think it’s insurmountable.”

Source: Washington University in St. Louis

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