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Study: self-appointed, all the experts know the least

The biggest opponents of different scientific topics are usually those who believe they know the most, even though they actually know the least. New research focuses on the prejudices and misconceptions that exist around issues such as genetically modified food and gene therapy.

The resistance within the EU against genetically modified food is fairly compact. This is despite the scientific consensus that such food is just as safe and useful as other food. On the photo for an earlier vote on such food in the Council of Europe in Brussels.photo: Thierry Charlier

Although there is a scientific consensus that genetically modified foods (GMOs) are safe and have great potential to improve nutritional intake for a large part of the world's population, many people dislike such foods. Within the EU, for example, the rules are strict and little genetically manipulated food is allowed and in Sweden there is almost no such food at all. This is despite the fact that it is considered safe and useful as conventional food.

In an attempt to find out more about what this resistance is, Canadian and American researchers have asked 2,000 adult Americans and Europeans how much they think they know about genetically modified foods. Subsequently, their actual knowledge was tested using a battery of true or false claims from science in general and genetics in particular.

More than 90 percent of the participants declared a form of resistance to genetically modified food. But those who were the strongest opponents of such food valued their own knowledge much higher than others, while in fact they knew the least, according to the knowledge tests.

"Extreme attitudes often come from people who think they understand complex subjects better than they actually do," said an article writer, Phil Fernbach, a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder in the United States, in a press release.

A possible consequence of the result, the researchers write in Nature Human Behavior where the research is presented, is that the people who least know about important scientific issues will probably remain ignorant, because they are probably not open to other arguments and new ones. knowledge.

"In order to change people's minds, they first have to learn to appreciate what they do not know, and without this first step, educational efforts will probably not work so well to bring them in line with the current scientific consensus," says Nicholas Light of the University of Colorado Boulder.

The researchers also investigated other controversial substances, such as gene therapy, with comparable results.



GMOs, which mean genetically modified organisms, are used to change the genes in plants and to change their properties.

The most genetically modified crops in the world are maize, soya, rapeseed and cotton.

For example, it is possible to add genes from a soil bacterium to a plant so that insects do not attack it, which means that farmers do not have to spray them with pesticides.

Potato immunity can also be added to brown rot, which is also usually controlled by spraying.

In other cases, you change the nutritional values ​​and add vitamins, for example.

The EU Food Safety Agency, EFSA, controls genetically modified food before it is allowed into the Union. In Sweden, the Swedish Agriculture Council then checks whether approved GMOs can have environmentally damaging effects.

Approximately one hundred products with GMOs are approved by the EU. Only a small number of them are on the Swedish market.

Source: National Food Administration


Then the Swede thinks

Seven out of ten Swedes think that genetically modified food is in store. In fact, it is hardly to be found. It showed a study conducted by Novus on behalf of the Consumers Association Stockholm last year. The research also showed that most people are interested in genetically engineered food, but the fewer people consider themselves to be aware of the problem and only one in three Sweden is positive about such foods.

Source: Novus

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