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[LIMA] A high percentage of people in Peru's capital Lima have never heard of biotechnology or transgenic food, and those with some knowledge of the issues cited television as their major source of information.

These are the main findings of a survey commissioned by Peru's National Institute for Agrarian Research (INIA) to determine public perceptions of transgenic food.


The preliminary results of the survey, conducted in August and September this year, were presented by INIA's director of agricultural research, Miguel Barandiarán, last week (12 October) at an international workshop on the public perception of agricultural biotechnology in Lima.

The survey found 84 per cent of respondents knew nothing about biotechnology and 81 per cent had never heard of transgenic food.

Those who did have knowledge were mostly between 18–24 years old and from the middle and upper classes. Sixty-six per cent of these people supported the production and commercialisation of genetically modified foods.

Thirty per cent of respondents cited nutrition as the principal benefit of transgenic foods, though 43 per cent expressed concern about health risks associated with them. 

The main problem in Peru is lack of information, as well as a predominance of negative information, Barandiarán told SciDev.Net.

The preliminary results illustrate the need to educate and inform people about the benefits and possible risks of biotechnology, he said.

"People have several sources of information but they don't understand them and as a consequence there is uncertainty and fear. However, they believe in research studies that can show if these products are harmful or not, so science has a major role in education and information," Barandiarán said.

He also said there is a need for rules to control biotechnology and transgenic foods.

The final results of the study are due to be announced at the end of November.

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