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New survey recognises contribution of Australian farmers

A recent study has found that farmers rank highly against other professions for their contribution to society.

Australian National Centre for Public Awareness of Science released a report this week: Australian Beliefs and Attitudes towards Science (ABAS). This report expands on a seven-year Australian national survey of public opinion about science and was commissioned by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

There were many highlights in the report but one particularly caught our eye here at AustralianFarmers.  While many Australians felt scientists contribute enormously to society (taking out top place at 80.9%), there is a positive attitude towards farmers too, ranking third (at 78.5%) just behind doctors (80.5%) and above engineers, teachers, members of the military, lawyers and business workers.

The study also measured respondents’ perceptions of how prestigious various professions were. On this measure, farming coming in at the middle of the pack at 7th of the 16 professions considered. This places farmers ahead of journalists, lawyers and tradespeople among others.

Perceived level of farmers' contribution to society, Australian Beliefs and Attitudes towards Science Survey, August 2017

This level of support is perhaps unsurprising, given Australian farmers produce around 95% of Australia’s daily food supply, and still manage to export 60% of what they produce.

Perception of key farming issues

The survey also uncovered new data regarding public perceptions toward fracking and food safety, and compared this to equivalent data collected in the United States.

When it comes to eating foods grown with pesticides, ABAS respondents are wary. 62.3% of respondents felt these practices were generally unsafe, compared to nearly a third (31.1%) who believe them to be generally safe. This was fairly consistent with survey results from the United States.

Similarly, 39.6% of respondents believed that genetically modified (GM) foods were unsafe. Australia fares better than the USA on this measure – with the majority of consumers in the states (57%) believing GM is unsafe.

These numbers demonstrate a significant challenge for a farm sector which relies on scientific advancements to feed a growing population. Consumers must understand the scientific evidence relating to farm technologies.

Perceived level of food safety, Australian Beliefs and Attitudes towards Science Survey, August 2017

One of the more resounding responses was in relation to fracking, with a whopping 70.7% of respondents saying they opposed this method of gas extraction. This is significantly higher than opposition in the USA, where only 50.1% oppose fracking.

What do you make of these results? Do you think we can do more to elevate the prestige of farming? What would you do to educate the community about pesticides and genetic modification? Log in and leave us a comment!

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