Food biotechnology and education
María Dolores Calvo
Financial support: Our work is supported by the project BIOEDUCAR of CYTED.
Keywords: food biotechnology, genetically modified foods, public perception, young consumers.
It is clear that the future of our children will be marked by the development of two scientific disciplines: computing and biotechnology. Regarding the first, during recent years considerable progress have been done in many countries around the globe aimed at enhancing the teaching in these subjects and, at the same time, encouraging the use of computers in classrooms. On the contrary, training in biotechnology is absent in many secondary schools of the planet. This formative deficiency generates citizens whose opinion on the marketing of biotechnological products is easily manipulated by both defenders and opposers of biotechnology. This situation is of particular relevance when the item in question is food biotechnological applications that provoke an intense social debate and more specifically the so-called genetically modified foods (GM foods). In this article we report a survey carried out with 500 young Spanish consumers in order to discover their attitudes to GM foods. The work has been focused on the study of the perception of GM foods and their labelling. The results indicate that they are moderately receptive to GM foods but like to be informed through labelling. However, the most important conclusion of the survey is the lack of sufficient knowledge about food biotechnology and genetic engineering on the part of young Spaniards. It is therefore very important that an unbiased presentation of the scientific basis of biotechnology should be introduced in secondary education. In this sense, the project BIOEDUCAR is an important tool to introduce unbiased information about food biotechnology in the Latin America and Spanish secondary schools.