BRUSSELS, Belgium - European consumers are increasingly sceptical over genetically-engineered food and food produced using industrial rearing, according to a survey by international analysts Healey and Beaker. Sixty-five percent of respondents in 1999 said they would not buy products containing genetically-modified organisms, compared with 61 percent in 1998. In Great Britain, opposition rose from 57 percent to 63 percent, in France from 69 percent to 75 percent, and in Portugal from 55 percent to 60 percent.

The findings are in line with recent findings from a European Union survey in the context of the EU FLAIR research program(Food-linked Agri-Industry Research). This concluded that consumers are still extremely skeptical about whether the final product they buy does or does not contain genetically-modified organisms.

The survey, conducted in Denmark, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, compared consumer attitudes to beer made with genetically modified yeast and yogurt containing genetically-modified fermenting agents. Consumers were highly skeptical about the idea of applying genetic modifications to food production, whether or not the final product contains genetically-engineered organisms.

Genetic engineering techniques rarely are seen as providing benefits, but opponents raise concerns about undesirable and uncontrolled consequences. Danes and Germans are least likely to accept genetic engineering techniques in food production. The FLAIR survey also found that consumer behavior is not influenced to any great extent by the information provided.

- Peter O'Donnell