The debate on genetic modification (GM) is persistent, polarized and mainly involves organized groups at the national level. With the European Union's new policy of coexistence, commercial cultivation of GM crops is expected by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality within the next few years, especially maize (BT) and potato (Phytophthera resistance and starch production). This makes the debate relevant for those directly confronted with this cultivation: the inhabitants of local rural communities. In The Netherlands, stakeholders formulated coexistence rules to prevent problems between conventional, organic and GM farmers that grow their crops in the same limited land area. Little is known, however, regarding the perceptions of the non-farming inhabitants of rural communities (" the neighbours" ) in the debate. This paper presents the results of a focus group-based argumentative analysis of whether (and how) the GM issues play a decisive role among non-farming inhabitants of four rural communities in the Netherlands. We analysed the arguments in relation to a conceptual model that describes the potential rise and dynamics from a pre-Nimby ambivalence towards an outspoken Nimby position. We observed that the GM debate was given very little priority relative to other national issues on the political agenda and that more social cohesion correlates with fewer arguments in the national debate. It is argued that this mechanism keeps the Nimby ambivalence in an undetermined mode, which in turn diminishes the chances of radical rural-based protest against local GM cultivation of crops. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.