GMO Food

'Extreme opponents of genetically modified foods know the least but think they know the most'

Title of the Nature Human Behavior article cited above sadly says it all.



Every independent scientific and regulatory body in the world that has evaluated current genetically enhanced crops have found them to be safe for consumption and the natural environment. Yet polling data show that a significant portion of the public opposes genetically modified foods.

The researchers behind the new Nature Human Behavior article conducted a survey of more than 2,000 adults in the United States asking respondents objective knowledge true-false questions such as:

1. Yeast for brewing beer or making wine consists of living organisms: True

2. Ordinary tomatoes do not contain genes, while genetically modified tomatoes do: False

4. By eating a genetically modified fruit, a person's genes could also become modified: False

6. Genetically modified animals are always bigger than ordinary ones: False

8. It is not possible to transfer animal genes into plants: False

The researchers find that the folks who were most opposed to genetically modified crops and livestock were the least likely to correctly answer the survey questions. In the abstract, the researchers report:

There is widespread agreement among scientists that genetically modified foods are safe to consume and have the potential to provide substantial benefits to humankind. However, many people still harbour concerns about them or oppose their use. In a nationally representative sample of US adults, we find that as extremity of opposition to and concern about genetically modified foods increases, objective knowledge about science and genetics decreases, but perceived understanding of genetically modified foods increases. Extreme opponents know the least, but think they know the most. Moreover, the relationship between self-assessed and objective knowledge shifts from positive to negative at high levels of opposition.

That's bad enough, but even more troubling is that the most ignorant are the least likely to be persuaded by efforts to educate them. "The finding has echoes of the Dunning-Kruger effect, the observation from social psychology that incompetence prevents the incompetent from recognising their incompetence," notes The Guardian.

"Those with the strongest anti-consensus views are the most in need of education, but also the least likely to be receptive to learning; overconfidence about one's knowledge is associated with decreased openness to new information," observe the researchers. "This suggests that a prerequisite to changing people's views through education may be getting them to first appreciate the gaps in their knowledge."

Good luck with that especially since the activist shamans who shake their rattles and beads over at groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have a vested interest in keeping their dupes ignorant.