Perceptions, Knowledge and factors that Influence the Acceptability of Genetically Modified Foods in Kampala City
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Introduction: Food is one of the most important basic needs for the survival of all human beings. With the rapid growing population in the world, the molecular genetics has become a very important tool in the improvement of plant and livestock for food security. Globally the adoption of Genetically Modified Foods has been controversial as it is in Uganda today. This study aimed to explore the knowledge, perceptions, and acceptability of the genetically modified foods (GMFs) in which remained a big gap. Methods: This was a cross sectional study that used qualitative and quantitative methods. Data was collected using a survey tool that was completed by198 participants and key informant interviews with 15 purposively selected experts in plant genetic modified technology. Data was summarized using descriptive statistics. Inferential statistics were analyzed using linear regression analysis. Qualitative data was analyzed through thematic analysis using Nvivo 11 software. Results: One hundred and ninety eight participants completed the survey. Of these, the majority was male (55.6%). The mean age was 33 years (SD 10.3); 172/198 (86.9%) had at least attained secondary level education; and 79/198 (48.2%) were employed. Almost two-thirds of participants (129/198, 65%) had some basic knowledge on genetically modified foods. Farmers (23/26, 88.5%) were more knowledgeable about GMFs compared to others. About 45.3% (90/198) of the public perceived GMFs as being unsafe for human consumption. Eighty-eight of 198 participants (44.3%) indicated that they had major health concern including risks such as cancer and allergies and 56/198 (28.4%) had environmental safety concerns. Factors that significantly influenced the acceptability of genetically modified foods included; gender (OR. 1.99, 95% CI: 1.03-3.84, p= 0.04), education level (OR1.33, 95% CI: 0.36 - 4.27, P=0.08), nutrition value (OR.3.07, 95% CI: 1.27 - 7.37, P=0.01) and health effects (OR.0.19, 95% CI: 0.04 - 0.94, P=0.04). Female participants were more likely to accept genetically modified foods (OR.4.84 95% CI: 1.37 - 7.68). Those who perceived genetically modified foods as being of high nutrition value were more likely to accept them (OR. 3.07, 95% CI: 1.27 - 7.37). An interview guide was used to explore the main themes. These included Knowledge, Perceptions, Acceptability, ethical and regulations of GMFs. The qualitative findings revealed xiv that experts were knowledgeable, had positive perception and were willing to accept GMFs however, raised concern for a need of a robust regulatory system and vigorous risk assessment. Conclusion and Recommendations: Most members of the public had ever heard about and had some basic knowledge on GMFs. However they had major concerns about the safety of GMFs to human health and the environment. Acceptability of GMFs was significantly influenced by female gender, high education level and the perceived nutritional value and health effects of GMFs. Educated members of the public had positive perception on the benefits and use of GMFs. There is need for public education and sensitization on GMFs to dispel misinformation and increase on the acceptability and use of GMFs.