Heading: Public Perceptions of Agricultural Biotechnologies in Europe (PABE)


Genetically modified (GM) crops and food are an important new field of technological innovation and commercial growth in biotechnology in Europe, but there has already been evidence of considerable, if ill-defined, public anxiety about this unfamiliar though potentially beneficial new field.

The PABE project was commissioned by the EC and conducted during 1998-2000, by an inter-disciplinary research team from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. It aimed to provide intelligence about social, ethical and cultural factors shaping public responses to GM foods. The project set out to explore and compare the factors shaping public views of agricultural biotechnologies and related food products in the five EU countries and to identify the implications of these factors for policy making at national and European levels.

Image: Agricultural Scene

In particular the project aimed to provide policy makers with insights into the conditions necessary for improving levels of public trust in agricultural biotechnology policies. Findings of the report suggest that most policy makers' conceptions of public attitudes and perceptions turned out to be mere 'myths'. There was no evidence for the claim that public resistance to biotechnologies can be explained by a mixture of ignorance and a desire for zero-risk. Rather, people felt strongly that inherent and unavoidable uncertainties should be acknowledged by expert institutions, and taken into account in decision making. Most people were sceptical that the benefits of genetically modified organisms in agriculture would constitute a worthwhile social need that could justify even a remote chance of experiencing long-term risks.

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