A survey of visitors from overseas - many in New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup - has found two out of three say New Zealand should not allow genetic engineering in food and the open environment, even though some have mixed views about how Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are used in their own countries, according to Scoop.co.nz.
Citing a GE Freeze press release, the report said the survey was based on visitors from over 25 countries included visitors from the USA, Canada and Argentina where GE crops have been widely grown. Two thirds (66%) of all those asked said “no” when asked if New Zealand should allow GE organisms into food and the environment.
This level of support for a GE-free policy is in line with international studies measuring public opinion, but it is all the more surprising because many respondents in the survey were under thirty years, and there were more men than women which might be expected to work in favour of the number people supporting GMO release. But the clear opposition to GMO release was expressed even amongst people from countries where GM crops have been commercialised. Even considering the margin of error the survey shows less than a quarter of overseas visitors support the release of GMO's in New Zealand.
"There is a sample bias in the survey towards visitors from France and England where there is a history of opposition to genetic engineering and where organic agriculture is strong," says Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-Free NZ in food and environment.
"But even when the French and English visitors are taken out of the data there is still a significant majority saying New Zealand should not release GMOs."
The findings of the international visitor survey support the concerns raised about the threat from genetic engineering to New Zealand's exports and reputation for natural high-quality food. Commercial release of GMO's is not something international markets expect or want in New Zealand.
This survey is awake-up call for New Zealand science and agricultural sectors that GMO's are not acceptable in the market.
"When up to 80% of overseas visitors say no to New Zealand releasing GMOs, our food exporters, farmers and tourism industry should listen," says Jon Carapiet.
"It's New Zealand's international customer base talking. The customer is always right: protecting our GE-free status can benefit the country more than putting that status at risk or destroying it."