Public vs. Expert Opinions (on Food)

Public opinion is almost always influenced by certain biases especially when it has something to do with controversial scientific research like genetically modified food. There is a massive gap that separates the public's perception of the safety and credibility of GMOs and GM foods compared to that of the scientific community. However, are the public's opinions on such matters credibe in themselves? It turns out, they're not as well informed as they would think.

Unlike some subjects where this divide between layperson and expert opinion is heavily mediated by politics, such as climate change caused by human activity — in the U.S. and elsewhere, conservatives are far less likely to believe in it than are liberals and climate scientists — the GM-food divide doesn’t really have a political dimension: Liberals, centrists, and conservatives are all about equally likely to have what are, from the point of view of experts, unfounded fears about the safety of GM foods.
To better understand the source of these fears, a team led by Philip M. Fernbach, a professor at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder, surveyed nationally representative samples in America, Germany and France, and other online participants, about their views on both GM foods and climate change, tested their knowledge on these subjects by asking them to answer factual questions, and also asked them to gauge their perceived level of knowledge on those subjects.

What they found from their study can be summed up by its title: "Extreme opponents of genetically modified foods know the least but think they know the most."

(Image credit: Fernbach et al)


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