EU Farmers Weigh In on GM Crops

A recent study shows that some farmers in the European Union (EU) would grow genetically modified (GM) crops if they were permitted to by the EU. Currently, the EU allows GM crops to be imported, but Bt maize (insect resistant corn) and Amflora potato (a starch potato grown for industrial use, rather than for food) are the only GM crops approved for cultivation in EU member states.

Over 600 farmers in six European countries were asked their opinions about growing two important GM crops: herbicide tolerant (HT) maize and HT oil seed rape (OSR). They were surveyed on how issues such as economic impact, environmental and technical concerns, peer or social pressure, and crop yield would affect their decisions whether to grow these crops.

Half of the farmers surveyed in the OSR-growing countries of Czech Republic, Germany, and UK were enthusiastic about growing GM HT crops.

In the maize cultivation regions of Spain, France, and Hungary, one third of the farmers surveyed were likely to adopt GM HT maize. One third were not willing to adopt the new technology, and one third were undecided.

Farmers’ opinions were primarily based on economic factors. Greater income from higher crop yields and lower weed control costs were the most important positive influences. Increased seed cost, and difficulty in marketing grain from GM crops were the biggest negative influences. Interestingly, social and peer pressures had the least influence on farmers’ willingness to adopt GM technology.

Areal FJ, Riesgo L, & Rodríguez-Cerezo E (2011). Attitudes of European farmers towards GM crop adoption. Plant biotechnology journal, 9 (9), 945-57 PMID: 21923717