London (26.6.14) – Does the worm turn? The Germans have been notorious for their apparent visceral fears of genetic engineering and all its works. Two decades ago they even forbade on German soil the production of GM-insulin for treating diabetes so they imported it from Denmark (1). Indeed, the Germans have persistently seemed more fearful of new technologies than some of their neighbours and friends (2).

There have been signs, weak, perhaps, but signs nevertheless, of a change. A report of recent polls in Germany shows a significant change of mood with regard to GM, at least with respect to Golden Rice, perhaps in response to the ongoing campaign by Allow Golden Rice Now (43) in Germany and elsewhere in Continental Europe.

The new report (4) notes that a majority of voters of the CDU/CSU and SPD parties are in favour of Golden Rice together with a two-thirds majority of the younger generation (18-29 years). Slogans expressing fear are finding less appeal among the general population.

The proportion of Germans rejecting green genetic engineering because of alleged dangers is falling significantly. In a Forsa poll of 2009, 78% of the respondents were against GM-food and as many as 85% against GMOs in feed materials; in a survey conducted in July 2013 (carried out by the dimap Institute) this had fallen to 71% favouring a ban on the use of genetic engineering in agriculture. Another survey in February 2014 by the Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung (Society for Consumer Research – GfK) then showed 63% of the population as opposing genetic engineering in food. According to a further survey conducted in April 2014, one focussing in particular on genetically enhanced Golden Rice and carried out by the of dimap Institute, there were still 59% of respondents who would refuse food in the origin of which genetic engineering had played a role.

A dicomm survey of June 2014 makes the change in sentiment particularly clear:

On the question of whether GM-Golden rice should be approved or rejected because of the role of genetic engineering in its development, a majority of CDU/CSU and SPD party members showed support for Golden Rice.

Party preference
CDU/CSU
SPD
Linke
B90/Grüne
For
52%
50%
40%
25%
Against
44%
45%
57%
70%
Don't know
4%
5%
3%
5%

Even the Greens reported 25% in favour: promise if not yet fulfilment.

Sources:


1. Nash N.C. (21.9.94). Germany shuns biotechnology. New York Times: (http://www.nytimes.com/1994/12/21/business/germanyshuns- biotechnology.html)

2. Umbral fears: are they in the genes? CropGen (14.5.12) (http://www.cropgen.org/article_441.html)

3. Allow Golden Rice Media Page. Allow Golden Rice Now (http://www.allowgoldenricenow.org/media-page)

4. Horst Rehberger (23.6.14), Grüne Gentechnik: Stimmungswandel in Deutschland. Forum Grüne Vernunft (http://www.gruenevernunft.de/meldung/gr%C3%BCne-gentechnik-stimmungswandel-deutschland)

The quotation from Forum Grüne Vernunft is offered by permission of the editor.



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  Green biotechnology: a change of mood in Germany?