Study Shows 90% Scientists Believe GMOs Are Safe, But Most Consumers Disagree

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In a study published Monday in Nature Human Behavior, scientists show how difficult it is to make people understand complex topics like genetically modified organisms.

GMOs are the plants and animals that have had their genetic material artificially manipulated. For example, crops were manipulated to be resistant to insects or to be more nutritious.

Almost 90% of scientists in America believe GMOs safe for consumption, but when it comes to consumers, only a third agree.

Why Do People Distrust GMOs?

The lead author of the study, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Philip Fernbach (University of Colorado Boulder) stated in an interview with Inverse that genetic modification is the perfect subject to explore the “psychology of extreme beliefs:”

It’s a really important technology but has very high levels of opposition, despite a scientific consensus around safety. Also, living in Boulder, Colorado, this is a fun topic to work on because it is such a controversial issue here.

With his colleagues, Fernbach surveyed over 2,000 U.S. and European adults, asking them what they thought about GMOs. They also asked the participants how much they understood from the science which is behind GMO and tested them with basic science questions like ‘is an electron smaller than an atom or not?’

90% of the study participants reported they had some distrust in GMOs. But the test shows that those who strongly opposed GMOs thought they knew a lot on the topic. However, the individuals convinced they know that topic scored the lowest on the GMO test and basic science test.

Fernbach explained that to make people change their mind about a topic is to make them realize that their knowledge is not based on facts:

The results suggest that getting people to change their minds about GMOs is not just a matter of educating them. The extremists already think they understand the issue, so you might first have to get them to appreciate that their knowledge is shallow or incorrect.