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Opposed to G.M.O.s? How Much Do You Know About Them?

The following is an excerpt of a New York Times article on the Nature Human Behaviour study.

Most scientists agree that genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.s, are safe to eat. But a new study suggests that the people who are most extremely opposed to them know the least about them.

Researchers surveyed 501 randomly selected adults, testing their knowledge of G.M.O.s with a series of true/false questions — for example, the cloning of living things produces genetically identical copies (true), or it is not possible to transfer animal genes into plants (false).

The study, in Nature Human Behaviour, also tested how strongly the participants opposed G.M.O.s by measuring on a seven-point scale the desire to regulate them, the willingness to eat them, and the inclination to actively oppose them by participating in protests or donating to anti-G.M.O. organizations.

The researchers then had the participants rate their own knowledge of G.M.O.s, on a scale from very little understanding to detailed and deep knowledge.
As the degree of opposition to the foods increased, knowledge about them decreased. The scientists also found that people who knew the least tended to think they knew the most.

“This shows that extreme beliefs stem from overestimation of knowledge,” said the lead author, Philip M. Fernbach, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Colorado. “We have to somehow get people to appreciate that they don’t understand things as well as they think they do.”