Airing the gene technology issue online
According to polls, the average European consumer regards gene technology, particularly for food production, as controversial. To help alleviate consumer concern, a European project has set up a website specifically to increase information communication on safety evaluation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The website at http://www.gmo-compass.org, set up by the EU project 'GMO communication and safety evaluation platform' (GMO-Compass), presents information on risk analysis, assessment and management incorporated in the context of a general GMO debate.
Objectives were to increase the amount of knowledge-based information in public discussion and to provide comprehensive data geared to informed consumers. Through this, GMO-Compass aimed to increase consumer trust with process transparency. Overall, a platform would be created to prompt informed discussion on 'green' technology.
A look at the website gives an idea of what GMO-Compass set out to achieve. Science-based information is presented in the form of articles and information grouped into subjects. Categories include news, grocery shopping and agri-biotechnology. Where applicable, searches are available such as for fruit and vegetables and processed food in grocery.
There are pages on safety and regulations and a comprehensive database searchable by 130 crops and then by date and event. A search through this database selecting any of the crops reveals the company, trait changed, use of crop and current status regarding authorisation.
Also available is a GMO food database covering plants, foodstuffs, additives and enzymes. Information presented includes (on enzymes) function, application, gene technology and all-important labelling.
For future use, conclusions were reached about how to maximise the impact of information dissemination. Statistics have been collected on website users and this promises to aid optimisation. GMO-Compass has set up a comprehensive website for consumer information on GMO issues at all levels, a significant step in the quest to combine the best of genetic technology with more traditional food production approaches.