In this research, D.T. Chagwena of Nutri@ctive Zimbabwe others, examined the Knowledge, attitudes and perceptions towards genetically modified foods in Zimbabwe.
Controversy regarding use of genetically modified (GM) foods still persists in both developing and developed worlds. Proponents of genetically engineered foods argue this is a sustainable solution to resource-limited settings where food insecurity continues to increase. However, in this pertinent debate, there is deficiency of knowledge on the opinion of the general public from resource-limited African communities.
The researcher aim was to describe the general public’s level of knowledge and perceptions towards use of GM foods in Zimbabwe. A descriptive cross-sectional survey was conducted among 301 participants attending a country-wide Traditional and Organic Foods Festival in Harare. A self-administered questionnaire was used to collect data.
The study results show a poor level of knowledge on GM foods as demonstrated among most respondents (60%) and associated with level of education (p<0.05). More than a third of respondents (36%) believed that GM chicken was being sold on Zimbabwean local markets. Lack of understanding on the genetic engineering process in food production was common among respondents. Attitude towards GM foods was negative and intention to consume GM foods was low (38%). Genetic engineering on food production was viewed as driven by a few companies for profit maximization (72%) with consequences for GM foods complex and too risky for humans (70%). Consumers believed a total of 44 GM foods were available on the Zimbabwean market with chicken, maize and fruits being common foods reported as GM foods. More than half (54%) of respondents reported to have consumed GM foods in the past even though GM foods are not permitted in the country. People with increased knowledge on genetic engineering and GM foods were more receptive of GM foods in their diets. Although intention to consume GM foods was high among individuals with increased knowledge and positive perceptions towards GMOs, knowledge and understanding on GM foods among study participants was limited. Positive perceptions, increased knowledge on genetic engineering and GM foods makes people more receptive of GM foods in their diets.
The researcher therefore recommends the need to improve consumer awareness on genetic engineering in food production to empower consumers to make informed choices regarding GM food. Consumers in resource-limited settings are sceptical of genetic modification in food and should be consulted during policy formulations on GM foods. Mandatory labelling of GM foods could also improve confidence among consumers on the foods they consume.