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Title: Public knowledge, attitudes and perceptions towards genetically modified organisms in India : final report
Authors: Sahai, Suman
Haribabu, E.
Date: 2010
Publisher: Gene Campaign, New Delhi, IN
Abstract: A three year research was undertaken by Gene Campaign and the University of Hyderabad to study the awareness, attitudes and perceptions to GM technology and GMOs among farmers, consumers and other stakeholders. The study with quantitative and qualitative approaches was conducted in five states, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Jharkhand and Assam. The general trends seen in the research results were fairly uniform across states. It showed that attitude to food is overwhelmingly guided by cultural –religious factors, irrespective of educational and economic status. This rather than a rational analysis of the benefits of a particular food determines food choice. The sanctity of food is underlined by the clear articulation in the rural communities that any food that had been transformed in the way that GM foods are , would be unacceptable for special ceremonies and religious festivals. People said they would not offer such food to God during religious festivals or serve it on special occasions like a wedding feast. Attitudes to cash crops are more relaxed than to food crops but even there, the notion of ‘tampering’ in some way with the seed, is met with resistance and farmers have reservations. Gender did not seem to be a big determinant of attitudes to GM foods. The government must take note that validating GM foods by pure science and promoting these foods on ‘science based evidence’ of safety is unlikely to be relevant in the back drop of such public perceptions. The presumption that knowledge and awareness about the benefits of GM crops will automatically convince people of their attractiveness cannot be taken for granted. The level of awareness about GM foods was very low and confused among urban consumers who listed food nutrition and safety as the most desired attributes of food. Consumers by and large felt that not enough was known about GM foods and that more research was needed. They were unclear about what GM foods were and about the status of GM foods in India with respect to availability, labeling or risks and benefits. According to the study, government is the agency in which the most number of people have the greatest trust across farmers and consumers in all states; they see it as an agency whose information is reliable and that can be relied on to protect their interests ( agency that should test for safety and monitor long term impact of GM foods). Across all states studied, the NGO community seemed to enjoy the least amount of trust amongst government agencies, companies, scientists and media. In the case of urban consumers, there was a divergence of views about information on GMOs. Many felt that NGOs provide useful, reliable information; others felt that NGOs doctored their information, like the companies did, to suit their ideology.
Project Number: 103926
Project Title: Genetically Modified Organisms : Public Knowledge, Attitudes and Perceptions (India)
Access: IDRC Only
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