Greeks going organic

Tomatoes that don’t rot, rice with more nutritious elements, soya and corn that resist bugs; these are but a few of the many genetically modified foods lining Europe’s supermarket shelves in recent years. But consumers in countries like Greece are not impressed, according to Eurostat surveys on the issue. For example, a consumer survey conducted in Attica last year showed that Greeks prefer organic produce to anything that is scientifically enhanced. This attitude reflects Greece’s still-tangible connection to agriculture. Greeks know their farms are often small, family-owned operations that are known for cultivating natural products. So Greek consumers were most concerned about the way food items had been produced, according to the survey organized by Professor Christos Fotopoulos of Ioannina University’s food marketing and management department and Christina Pappa, a postgraduate student at Newcastle University. No GM Consumers immediately rejected products identified as genetically modified, even those under famous brands or shown to have health benefits. Instead, they preferred certifiably organic food to that produced conventionally. Quality alone was not enough to convince consumers of a product’s organic nature, Fotopoulos said. They wanted proof, like labels. Nor did Greek consumers believe that a quality guarantee for a GM food product ensured personal safety. However, they did agree that a guaranteed quality organic product was also a guarantee of safety, and, in combination with perceived quality, it made the product preferable to a conventionally grown food product since the supply of organic food does not meet the demand. «Unfortunately, the lack of a national strategy has meant that there is no encouragement for organic farming or the Mediterranean diet,» the researchers said. «So despite its advantages and the high demand, organic farming in Greece is restricted to 1 percent of the total area of cultivated land. «Meanwhile, the state’s uncertain approach to genetically modified products, even though neither consumers nor producers want them, has meant delays in labeling GM food products and the ‘accidental’ cultivation of genetically modified seed strains,» they said. «If this situation that is so important for the country’s farming sector continues, over time it will result in a selling out of the two main comparative advantages of our agricultural products – that is, their quality and their health value.» Survey data The respondents, aged 25-40, were selected based on their understanding of what GM products actually were. Nearly half held university degrees, and most were members of households that included a working woman.