It's interesting that the "qualitative" study commissioned by FSA, involving just 30 hand-picked participants, has been spun into something quite different by the FSA itself and by sections of the media.
In the FSA's own press release the phrasing was quite careful, but there was no mention of the fact that this supposedly "independent" study by NatCen was a very small one, based on a group of hand-picked respondents, and with no statistical significance. Inevitably, leaving aside whatever "conclusions" there were arising from the study, some sections of the media failed to look at the Report written by the researchers, or at the Executive Summary, and therefore made no mention of the fact that only 30 people were interviewed. They therefore assumed that the study was a QUANTITATIVE one which told us something new about the nature and the scale of pro-GM and anti-GM consumer attitudes. Look at the piece below on the site called "Food Quality News." Honest misunderstanding, or deliberate and devious spinning of the story? We suspect the latter.
It has to be assumed that the FSA has been thoroughly dishonest here, and has sought to give the study much greater significance than it actually deserves.
This is the second time that this sort of thing has happened. In the spring of 2008 an absurd an carefully manipulated piece of "qualitative research" by a team from the Open University, costing £131,000, was heavily promoted by the Economic and Social Research Council and by the GM industry as showing that "Farmers are upbeat about genetically modified crops...." The Sunday Telegraph reported that "UK farmers want to grow GM crops. Farmers are in favour of growing genetically modified crops in Britain......" However, on investigation it turned out that the research was based on interviews with 30 hand-picked respondents, almost all of whom were large-scale commodity farmers who had links with the biotechnology and GM industries. The research steering group was made up of members from organizations which were all predisposed to support and promote GM technology. This research was therefore essentially corrupt, since it was initially flagged up as a study of the attitudes, intentions and practices of farmers with and without experience of growing GM crops, then skewed onto a statistically nonsensical and tiny sample of hand- picked respondents. The whole study was manipulated. Finally the research was "spun" by the OU team and by ESRC as somehow demonstrating the views of UK farmers in general. That was misrepresentation which led GM Free Cymru to make a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission and forced the Sunday Telegraph to publish a letter in which we flagged up the extent of the deception.
Qualitative research is very dangerous, especially when its results get in the hands of journalists who know nothing about project design, protocols, sampling procedures, or statistical significance. The FSA's professional GM team knows this perfectly well.
Let's hope that the members of the GM Dialogue Steering Group are not as naive as certain sections of the media or as devious as the FSA personnel who will be heavily involved in briefing them over the next 12 months.........
REFERENCES Sunday Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=&xml=/ earth/2008/02/24/scifair324.xml http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/PO/releases/ 2008/ february/gm.aspx?ComponentId=25875&SourcePageId=25243 What farmers think about GM crops Embargoed until 00:01hrs Sunday 24th February 2008 "Farmers are upbeat about genetically modified crops, according to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)........." ESRC accused of collusion, manipulation and misrepresentation http://www.gmfreecymru.org/open_letters/Open_letter6Mar2008.htm
Quotes from the cited article : Although many study participants said........ It found a broad consensus that .......... Although many study participants said......... People also saw academics and health professionals as reliably impartial...........
See the full article here: Consumers want better GM labelling: Report By Caroline Scott-Thomas FoodQuality, 26 November 2009