Edited by Stuart J. Smyth, Peter W.B. Phillips and David Castle
The introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops to world markets has created a new division between the crop trading countries. Despite claims from developers, scientists and official institutions that GM products are safe, consumer attitudes toward GM foods are largely negative in many developed countries, especially in the European Union and Japan (Lusk et al., 2005). Consumer skepticism is usually attributed to the unknown environmental and health consequences of genetically modified crops. Such consequences include, but are not limited to, unanticipated allergic responses, the spread of pest resistance or herbicide tolerance to wild plants, and inadvertent toxicity to wildlife. Further, many are concerned with the ethical dimensions of biotechnology. The United States is an exception to this rule, where consumers are largely indifferent about GM foods (Nelson, 2001; Chern et al., 2002). Studies conducted in lesser developed countries (LDCs) find that consumer attitudes toward GM foods are less negative and in many cases positive (Li et al., 2002; Subrahmanyan and Cheng, 2000). The agbiotech industry cites numerous benefits of GM crops, including food availability, nutrition enhancement and economic advantages; importantly, not all of these advantages are attributed to the same crop. The current world population is approximately 6 billion and growing at a rapid pace. There is a need to ensure an adequate food supply for this burgeoning population in the future. GM crops have beneficial characteristics that can be exploited to meet the growing food demand.
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