Attitudes to Genetic Engineering

Japanese and International Comparisons

Darryl R. J. Macer, Ph.D. Eubios Ethics Institute 1992

Copyright 1992, Darryl R. J. Macer. All commercial rights reserved. This publication may be reproduced for limited educational or academic use, however please enquire with the author.

3. Perceptions of Science and Technology

page 19-38 in Attitudes to Genetic Engineering: Japanese and International Comparisons D.R.J. Macer (Eubios Ethics Institute, 1992).

3.1. Interest in Science and Technology

There are reasonably frequent public opinion surveys on science and technology in Japan performed by the Prime Minister's Office through interviews. They do not analyse in great detail the fields internal to genetic engineering and biotechnology, which were the focus of this study. However, they do provide some useful data which can be used to check the representativeness of the samples used in this study. Also, they do give us useful information on the interest in science in general. Some of the relevant results of such studies will be discussed during the course of this book.

The level of interest in science and technology has been measured using a five point scale, very interested, somewhat interested, cannot say, not interested very much, not at all interested, in three recent public opinion surveys (PMO 1990c). These were performed in 1981 (N=2368), 1987 (N=2334), and January 1990 (N=2239). The level of interest has stayed similar during the time between the surveys, in 1990, 56% said that they were interested while 42% said they were not, while 2% did not say or said they could not say. This question was similar to one used in the USA (OTA 1987). In the USA 71% said that they were interested, but 29% said that they were not (the combined scores of two options, for both "interested" and "not interested"). In the USA the interest had declined from results in 1982. However, this result suggests that people in the USA may still claim more interest in science than those in Japan. More specific examples will be discussed in the following section. First we will look at some of the results of this survey.

The questions were:

Q1. Which of these statements best describes your interest in science and technology? Would it be...?
1 Not at all interested 2 Not very interested 3 Interested
4 Very Interested 5 Extremely Interested
Q2. Do you ever read magazines that are devoted to science or technology? Would it be...?
1 Never 2 Rarely 3 Yes, occasionally 4 Yes, frequently
Q3. Do you ever watch any television programmes about science or technology? Would it be...?
1 Never 2 Rarely 3 Yes, occasionally 4 Yes, frequently
Q4. Do you ever read any articles or reports in newspapers or magazines about science or technology? Would it be...?
1 Never 2 Rarely 3 Yes, occasionally 4 Yes, frequently

Q1 sought to measure the person's view of their level of interest in science and technology in general. Q2-4 looked at the way that the person received information about science and technology from the mass media, in particular science magazines (Q2), television programmes (Q3), and reports in newspapers, and in science magazines (Q4). These questions were the same as used by Couchman & Fink-Jensen (1990) in .i(.New Zealand, and are similar to those used in the USA (OTA 1987).

The first four questions of the survey were intended to be an indicator of the level of interest that people had in science and technology in general. These questions were also intended to be used to test whether there was any association with the expressed level of interest in science and technology with the answers to the more specific questions.

The level of interest in science was addressed by Q1, and a five point scale for response was used. The results of this question appear to show a greater interest level in science than the response to the Japanese public survey performed in 1990 (PMO 1990c) discussed above, but this is due to the different wording of the options. The answers can be compared to those made in New Zealand. The results are shown in Figure 3-1 and Table 3-1. The distribution of the answers from the public was similar in Japan to those expressed in New Zealand. They showed a high level of interest in science, with 75-78% in both countries stating that they were interested to some degree (answer 3,4 or 5), but with slightly higher interest in New Zealand. The teachers in both countries were very similar, as expected 99% of biology teachers said that they were interested in science, and the proportions of each response were similar. The scientists in Japan expressed a significantly higher interest in science, with 58% answering that they were extremely interested, compared to 9% in New Zealand, although 98% of both samples said that they were interested to some degree in science. The Tsukuba University staff, and the university student samples had intermediate interest among the groups in Japan.

The questions concerning the media also provided information about which media source was used the most to obtain information about science and technology. This was followed later in the questionnaire by a direct question asking where people obtained most of the information that they thought influenced their responses to this questionnaire.

Q2 asked whether people read science and technology magazines. Only 11% of the public said that they never read these (answer 1), compared to 29% of the New Zealand public. However, 44% answered that they read them only rarely, and the number answering that they read them occasionally or frequently were similar to those in New Zealand. The answer to this question could represent the high level of reading among Japanese people, but it would be interesting to study the number of science and technology magazines in ordinary bookshops in these two countries to assess whether the amount of exposure is different. This question was not asked to the teachers and scientists in New Zealand. In Japan, the responses of these groups were significantly shifted to more frequent reading than the public, as would be expected, with 95% of both groups saying that they read magazines devoted to science and technology occasionally or frequently, and scientists indicating a more frequent reading of these magazines, such as scientific journals, which would be expected.

Figure 3-1 Comparative interest in science and technology between Japan and New Zealand.
New Zealand data from Couchman & Fink-Jensen (1990).
Table 3-1 Interest in science and technology

HighSchool Biology Teachers

University of Tsukuba Staff
Total Scientists
Number547 204224 722247 549

Q1: Which of these statements best describes your interest in science and technology? (... Not at all, not very, very or extremely interested)
Not at all 1.6 1.50 0.40.8 0.6
Not very 23.9 14.20.4 6.715.8 3.6
Interested44.8 33.324.6 23.739.7 15.1
Very15.4 19.644.2 22.218.6 23.1
Extremely 14.3 31.430.8 47.025.1 57.6

Q2: Do you ever read magazines that are devoted to science or technology?
Never11.2 5.40.4 1.22.0 0.4
Rarely43.7 34.34.1 15.134.4 7.8
Occasionally36.0 48.051.4 37.542.1 34.0
Frequently9.1 12.344.1 46.221.5 57.8

Q3: Do you ever watch any television programmes about science or technology?
Never0.9 00 0.40.8 0.2
Rarely23.1 17.74.5 8.416.1 6.7
Occasionally58.0 64.641.3 61.462.5 59.6
Frequently18.0 17.754.2 29.820.6 33.5

Q4: Do you ever read any articles or reports in newspapers, magazines about science or technology?
Never1.8 1.50 0.10 0.2
Rarely19.1 13.80.9 5.913.7 6.7
Occasionally57.9 57.134.7 36.050.8 59.6
Frequently21.2 27.664.4 58.035.5 33.5

Q3 and Q4 relate to what are the most universal media, television and newspapers. The public responses suggest both media reach the public to a similar degree. Scientists appear to read the newspaper more frequently than they watch television to obtain science information, though this could reflect the greater regularity of science news articles that appear in the newspaper compared to programs on Japanese television. Teachers also tend to read newspaper science articles more frequently than they watch television programs. In New Zealand, television programs may be proportionately somewhat more important as a source of science and technology news than they are in Japan, though this may also reflect the presence of a regular science program on peak time New Zealand television which is not present on Japanese television. New Zealand teachers may see both of these media sources more frequently than do their Japanese equivalents.

There have been a variety of international public opinion polls which have examined the level of interest that people have in science and technology, in addition to those looking at interest in biotechnology and genetic engineering. In international questionnaires, Japanese tend to score well in scientific knowledge. The level of awareness of science in the USA may be slightly higher than in Britain (Durant et al. 1989). Young people tend to know more than old, and males more than females, but the strongest association is with education in Western people. The same is true in Japan. The results of Q1 indicated that males had significantly (P>0.01) higher interest in science than females, in the public and student samples. However, there was no significant age dependent difference detected. There may also be more interest in scientific issues in people with higher education, though as this survey shows, it can be both concern and benefits that are felt. There have also been questionnaires looking at the relative interest in science stories in the media as opposed to politics or sport, and in Britain people may have more interest in stories that concern a scientific or medical breakthrough than a story on politics or sport (Durant et al. 1989, Kenward 1989). A 1989 Chinese survey of 4911 public in Beijing suggests a positive image of science and technology in China also, though the questions were different and the responses were by questionnaires returned from relatives of middle school students (Zhang 1991). Regarding feelings about science and technology, 35% felt "excited or wonder", 44% felt "satisfaction or hope", only 1% felt "fear or alarm", 9% were indifference or had "lack of interest", and 11% had no opinion.

In the 1983 Nikkei survey of business people in Japan, people were asked about their reading habits regarding articles about biotechnology. 18% said that they read such newspaper articles carefully, and 66% said they would read when they saw it (Nikkei 1983). However, 42% said the articles were difficult to understand, while 23% said that they were easy, with 35% saying neither. 86% said that they got information about biotechnology from the newspaper, 55% said from the television, 37% from industry newspapers and 22% said they got information about biotechnology from ordinary magazines. However, many people said such articles were difficult to understand. In a public survey performed by Dentsu (1985) in Tokyo and Osaka, the public interest in biotechnology was examined. 9% said that they were extremely interested, 35% said rather interested, 19% said they cannot say, 29% said that they were not interested much and 9% said they were not at all interested. This level of interest was a little more undecided than the level for science and technology in general, looked at by the PMO (1990c). Nevertheless, another measure of interest is the awareness of science and technology, which is examined in Q5.

The issue of information sources will also be discussed in section 8.5. on education and the role of the media. There should be an effort to improve the legibility of science articles, not just for the public, but also for scientists who are not specialists in one particular field. Nevertheless, the results of this survey show that people do read articles about science in newspapers, and watch television programmes on science.

3.2. Awareness of Specific Scientific Developments

Although the principal purpose of the survey was to investigate opinions about genetic engineering, in Q5 some other controversial and non-controversial developments were listed and the results for each can be compared. The public awareness of, and attitudes to, specific developments of science and technology was examined using the same question as used by Couchman & Fink-Jensen (1990) in New Zealand. People were first asked about their awareness of the techniques (Q5a), whether they had not heard of it, they had heard of it but knew little about it, or whether they could explain it to a friend. The next question (Q5b) asked them whether they thought each development would have a benefit for Japan or not. Q5c and Q5d examined their perceptions about the risks of technology by asking them how worried they were about each development.

Q5. We will ask you about some particular scientific discoveries and developments. Can you tell me how much you have heard or read about each of these. Please answer from this scale.
1 I have not heard of this
2 I have heard of this, but know very little/nothing about it
3 I have heard of this to the point I could explain it to a friend
How much have you heard or read about?
Biological pest control Silicon chips Biotechnology
Fibre Optics Agricultural Pesticides In vitro fertilisation
Superconductors Genetic engineering
For each of these developments that you have heard of;
Q5b. Do you personally believe (DEVELOPMENT) would be a worthwhile area for scientific research in Japan?
1 Yes 2 No 3 Don't know (only in public questions)
Q5c. In the area of (DEVELOPMENT) do you have any worries about the impact of research or its applications?
1 Yes 2 No 3 Don't know (only in public questions)
Q5d. For each development where you are worried; could you please tell me how worried you are, using this scale...about the impacts of (DEVELOPMENT) ?
1 I am slightly worried about this 2 I am somewhat worried about this
3 I am very worried about this 4 I am extremely worried about this

In Q5b and Q5c, the "don't know" option was not given in the questionnaire mailed to teachers, scientists and University staff. If people did not know they left the question blank, or wrote on the questionnaire, as was done in the New Zealand survey. The questions used were translations of those used in New Zealand so a direct comparison of the results can be made. The questions were asked to all sample populations so that comparison between the different groups can also be made. The results for the first question (Q5a) are summarised in Table 3-2.

Looking first at the public results, five developments that most people had heard of were; biotechnology, with 97% having at least heard of it, but this result was not significantly higher than the awareness of pesticides (96%), fibre optics (96%), in vitro fertilisation (95%) or genetic engineering (94%). 88% had heard of superconductors and 75% had heard of biological pest control. The anomalous result was silicon chips, which only 69% had heard of. Although one possible reason may be the use of katakana (a phonetic alphabet used for words introduced to Japanese from other languages), but biotechnology is also written in katakana and 97% had heard of it. Although people may have recognised the word "computers", "silicon chips" was not so familiar, though there is an alternative Japanese word also used for silicon chips. For all developments and in all samples, there was a positive correlation between awareness and the expressed level of interest in science (Q1).

Table 3-2 Awareness of developments in science and technology

HighSchool Biology Teachers

University of Tsukuba Staff
Total Scientists
Number538 204224 718247 547
Biological pest control
Not heard24.8 27.45.8 9.318.6 7.0
Heard only57.1 46.621.4 43.756.3 38.2
Can explain18.1 26.072.8 47.025.1 54.8
Silicon chips
Not heard30.6 22.617.5 12.021.3 9.2
Heard only47.6 59.352.9 52.253.3 49.8
Can explain21.8 18.129.6 35.825.4 41.0
Not heard2.8 1.53.6 1.42.0 0.9
Heard only64.7 53.412.0 33.358.8 24.9
Can explain32.5 45.184.4 65.339.2 74.2
Fibre optics
Not heard4.4 2.03.1 2.43.7 2.0
Heard only64.5 63.752.0 51.762.8 47.1
Can explain31.1 34.344.9 45.933.5 50.9
Not heard3.7 2.93.1 3.95.3 2.8
Heard only58.5 61.329.0 45.758.2 29.8
Can explain37.8 35.867.9 50.436.5 55.4
In vitro fertilisation
Not heard4.6 2.03.6 1.81.6 2.0
Heard only45.3 41.29.4 36.849.4 29.8
Can explain50.1 56.887.0 61.449.0 68.2
Not heard11.6 2.94.0 3.24.1 2.6
Heard only59.7 66.751.6 52.760.8 49.0
Can explain28.7 30.444.4 44.135.1 48.4
Genetic engineering
Not heard6.0 3.44.5 2.85.8 1.3
Heard only68.0 55.413.8 36.156.8 28.4
Can explain25.9 41.281.7 61.137.4 70.3

Figure 3-2 Comparative awareness of science developments between Japan and New Zealand
Results from the New Zealand survey of Couchman & Fink-Jensen (1990).
There have been previous surveys in Japan looking at the awareness of biotechnology. In a February 1991 survey conducted by the Agency for the Environment (N=1363, EA 1992), 97% of the respondents said that they had heard of the word biotechnology, the same proportion as in this survey. In the Dentsu (1985) survey of the public, 86% said they had heard the word biotechnology and 14% said they had not, only 20% said they understood biotechnology to some degree. 44% said they were interested to some degree in the technology. However, 64% said they did not have a particular image of biotechnology. In another question, 22% said that they thought biotechnology research should be developed and 29% said maybe it should be, whereas 45% could not say and 4% said it should not be developed. In the Newton (1989) survey of its readers, 98% had heard of the words biotechnology and genetic recombination, similar to the public result in this survey. 85% said they understood the main idea of genetic engineering. 62% of the Newton respondents said they were somewhat interested in biotechnology. In the Nikkei (1983) survey of business people, using response to mailed out questionnaires, with a 40% return rate, 63% said that they had some knowledge of genetic recombination, and 35% said that they had at least heard of it. The proportion of people that have heard of these words appears to have remained similar. The scales used for responses were different, as were the sample, so we cannot compare this result for the level of understanding of biotechnology and genetic engineering directly with the results here.

In January 1990 a Japanese public survey (PMO 1990c) was conducted. The awareness of a list of scientific terms was examined. 61% did not know the word "DNA", compared to 67% in 1987. Of those who had heard of DNA, 18% said they had at least some degree of understanding of it, compared to 15% in 1987. The results of this survey suggest that public awareness and understanding of biotechnology may be still increasing. These results compare to a 1988 survey in Britain where only 43% of the public thought that DNA was a term used in the study of "living things" (Durant et al. 1989). In the Japanese public survey in 1990, the level of familiarity can be compared to the proportion of the public who had not heard of other words; acid rain (19%), nuclear fusion (23%), immunity (9%), database (45%, compared to 47% in 1987), ozone (13%), and AI (80%, artificial intelligence rather than artificial insemination).

In New Zealand there was significantly lower awareness of these developments in general, see the comparative results for Q5 in Figure 3-2. Pesticides was the most familiar word, as was the case in Japan, but there was significantly lower awareness of biotechnology, fibre optics, in vitro fertilisation and genetic engineering. Nevertheless, in New Zealand 57% had heard of biotechnology; in a 1988 survey of 2000 public in the U.K., only 38% of respondents had heard of biotechnology (RSGB 1988), considerably less than in New Zealand, and compared to 97% in Japan in this survey in 1991! The result of Q5 suggests that the Japanese public is comparatively very well exposed to biotechnology, with 34% saying they could explain it, compared to 9% in New Zealand.

A recent comment was made on the wide use of the prefix "bio-" in English (Kennedy 1991), but this trend on using "bio-", may be even more common in Japanese, and Japanese may be the people with the highest perception of benefits from the word "biotechnology", among industrialised countries. Of all respondents to Q5b, including the additional 2% of the public who said they had not heard of the word "biotechnology", 82% said they thought it was a worthwhile area of research for Japan, and 85% of those who had heard of it saw benefits.

There was also a high level of awareness of genetic engineering, with 94% saying that they had heard of it and 26% of the public saying that they could explain it. We can compare this result with a question in the USA in 1986 (OTA 1987) in which 32% said they did not know the meaning of "genetic engineering", whereas 66% said that they thought they knew the meaning of the word. It would appear that awareness may be higher in Japan, though the USA result is from five years previous, and they are different questions. More New Zealand public said that they could understand genetic engineering than Japanese (Figure 3-2).

Of the developments least familiar to Japanese, 25% had not heard of biological pest control in Japan, this contrasts to the results in New Zealand where it was the second most familiar development, with only 18% not having heard of it (Couchman & Fink-Jensen 1990). Superconductors was the least familiar technique in New Zealand, with 56% of people not having heard of it, whereas in Japan it was the third least familiar, but still 88% had heard of it. These results suggest that the awareness of scientific and technological developments in Japan is, in general, much better than in New Zealand, however it must be remembered that the sampling method used in Japan was return of a mail questionnaire, and only 26% of the public responded. We must investigate the trends in the scientists and teachers which both used mailed questionnaires to obtain more reliable international comparisons.

The academics had significantly higher awareness of all the developments, as could be expected. The high school teachers also had significantly better awareness of the techniques, even though the proportion of respondents who said that they had not heard of biotechnology was 1% more than the public, the number of respondents who could explain each development was significantly higher. The University of Tsukuba staff sample was closer to the public than the other academics, as could be expected. The awareness of the University students was between that of the public and the academics. The results for the scientists and the high school teachers were similar, and there were not very significant differences in their responses for each development, except that more teachers could explain IVF (87%) compared to scientists (68%).

The most familiar developments for all groups were biotechnology, pesticides, fibre optics, genetic engineering, and IVF. Superconductors and biological pest control were slightly less familiar, and silicon chips was again the least familiar term. High proportions of these groups could explain genetic engineering, 82% of high school biology teachers and 70% of scientists; and biotechnology, 84% and 74%, respectively. These results compare with the values from the public of 26% and 33% for genetic engineering and biotechnology, respectively.

Comparing these results to those groups in New Zealand, there are some interesting differences. In New Zealand about 97% of scientists and 98% of teachers could explain biological pest control, but in Japan only 55% and 73% respectively. This is despite the very similar proportions of the public sample which could explain it, 18% in Japan and 21% in New Zealand. This may reflect greater use of this technique in New Zealand. The understanding of pesticides in general was also higher in these groups in New Zealand, as was the understanding of IVF. These are despite the opposite trends in public understanding, where the Japanese sample scored higher than that in New Zealand. Scientists in both countries had similar results for genetic engineering, silicon chips, superconductors and fibre optics. Scientists in Japan had significantly higher understanding of biotechnology (74% could explain it in Japan, compared with 61% in New Zealand). High school biology teachers in New Zealand expressed better understanding of genetic engineering than those in Japan, despite the opposite situation for biotechnology. Japanese high school biology teachers also had better understanding of fibre optics, silicon chips, superconductors.

3.3. Perceived Benefits of Science and Technology

The perceptions of people who had heard of the developments in science and technology (Q5) were used for the analysis, and the results of this question are presented in Table 3-3. Several respondents questioned why the benefits were only to be perceived to Japan, and thought the question should have applied to the world in general. Among the public respondents who had heard of the respective technologies in Japan, the developments perceived to be the most worthwhile to Japan were pesticides (89%), fibre optics (86%), biotechnology and superconductors (85%) and biological pest control (84%). Genetic engineering was only seen as a worthwhile area by 76%. Silicon chips and IVF were seen to be worthwhile areas of research by 66% and 58%, though 31% of the total respondents said that they did not know the word "silicon chips". This low apparent awareness represents unfamiliarity with the word "silicon chip", rather than with the applications of them, and the proportion of people that think it is a worthwhile area would be expected to be higher in a country so dependent upon silicon chip-based industries.

Scientists and high school teachers thought that all these areas were worthwhile areas of research for Japan, with most areas seen as worthwhile by over 90%, except for IVF research, which was only seen as worthwhile by about 80%. Pesticide and silicon chip research was seen as worthwhile by 88% of biology teachers, slightly lower than the rest of the techniques. Genetic engineering and biotechnology were perceived to be worthwhile areas of research by 92-95% and 94-97%, respectively, by both of these groups. The University of Tsukuba staff perceived less benefits than the scientists in general.

This question reveals something of what people perceive their country to be like. This is apparent if a comparison is made with the New Zealand opinions, see the comparative results of Q5b and Q5c in Figure 3-3. The fact that New Zealand is principally an agricultural country, with relatively little industry is reflected in the segregation of biological techniques such as biological pest control, biotechnology, genetic engineering and pesticides (range 79%-99%), from the techniques such as fibre optics, superconductors and silicon chips (27-37%), in the opinions of scientists and high school biology teachers. In vitro fertilisation was seen as worthwhile by about half the scientists and high school teachers in New Zealand, in between these two groups of techniques, though 71% of the public saw it as worthwhile. The results for the New Zealand public were not so greatly spread, and less of the public thought that genetic engineering was a worthwhile area for New Zealand compared to other areas of research. It appears that Japanese perceive more benefits from most of these areas of research for their country, than do New Zealanders.

The Nikkei (1983) survey of business people asked respondents whether they thought biotechnology was suitable for Japan. 69% said yes, and only 3% said no, with 27% saying neither. In the Dentsu (1985) survey of the public, 51% said that biotechnology research should be developed, 45% said they could not say, and 4% said no.

Figure 3-3 Comparative perceptions of the benefits of science developments between Japan and New Zealand
The proportion of the respondents who had heard of each development who thought that each development was worthwhile for their country (Q5b) is plotted. Results from New Zealand from the survey of Couchman & Fink-Jensen (1990).
3.4. Concerns about Science and Technology

Q5c and Q5d examined how worried people were about the impact of these different developments. The techniques that people were most worried about were IVF (61%) and genetic engineering (61%), and pesticides (57%) were also of similar concern. The degree of concern was also highest with these techniques, with more people saying that they were extremely or very concerned about these techniques, more than with other developments (Table 3-3, Figure 3-4). Biotechnology was of significantly lower concern, though still 41% had some worry. Biological pest control was of lower concern (30%), and the three developments of physics; superconductors (10%), silicon chips (9%) and fibre optics (7%) were of lowest concern.

High school teachers were significantly more concerned about the impact of genetic engineering, IVF, biological pest control, biotechnology and pesticides than the public. Scientists expressed a similar level of concern to the public about all developments, except for a slightly higher concern about biological pest control. New Zealand scientists and high school teachers expressed more general concern about the impact of all developments (see Figure 3-5), whereas the public expressed less concern about all these developments!

The high level of concern expressed about in vitro fertilisation (IVF) is one feature of these results. There have been several surveys of attitudes of Japanese to IVF, and they are of a wide range. In December 1985 (N=7441), and in October 1990 (N=2209), the Prime Minister's Office surveyed people of at least 20 years's of age. In 1990, 24% said that IVF was a field of medicine which needed careful ethical consideration, a similar proportion to people who said that careful ethical consideration should be given to the subjects "genetic therapy" and "prenatal diagnosis". In December 1985 29% approved of IVF being performed on humans, 55% disapproved, and 17% were unsure of their views towards IVF; and in 1990 30% approved, 49% disapproved, and 21% were unsure (PMO 1986a,1991b). In 1985, 75% said that they had heard of IVF in a list of "beneficial developments of life sciences", being the item with the highest awareness from of list of 10 developments (including treating cancer and genetic disease which 40% said they had heard of). Several surveys in 1982-84 of special groups gave approval ratings for IVF of about 60%, with disapproval by 33% of respondents, but with different questions based on a situation of an infertile couple wanting to have a child. Because these questions included the comment that these couples could only have children using this method, the results may have been more positive. Buddhist priests were surveyed at the end of 1986, and 43% approved of IVF for married couples with 22% opposed and 35% undecided (Shirai 1990). In the current survey, 80% of the people that had heard of IVF thought it was worthwhile for Japan, though 70% were worried about its use, and 38% of the total were either very or extremely worried about its use. These results are consistent with the large public opinion surveys conducted by the Prime Minister's Office, above, and this is a useful benchmark to allow extrapolations of the responses to the other 7 areas of science that were compared. It is also apparent that ordinary people can simultaneously think of benefit and risk from a scientific technology.

Pesticides are of high concern in Japan and New Zealand, as expected. However, most people also see the use of pesticides as being worthwhile to the country. In March 1990, the public in Japan were asked to identify which kinds of environmental problem they were interested in, from a list (PMO 1990d, N=3753). "Poisonous chemicals" was listed by 32% of the respondents, the same level as a 1988 survey. This compares to 41% who identified pollution from factories and 24% who identified nuclear power. In July 1989, another survey (N=2250, PMO 1990a) asked people to identify which environmental problems they thought were getting worst, as usual it was choice from a list. 21% said they thought that water pollution from pesticides and fertilisers applied to farms and golf courses was getting worse, compared to 43% who thought that noise from transport was getting worse, and 2% who thought that smoke from burning off fields and burning of rubbish was getting worse.

Table 3-3 Attitudes to developments in science and technology

Values are expressed as %'s of the number of respondents to Q5 that had heard of, or could explain, each development (N).

High School Biology Teachers

University of Tsukuba Staff
Total Scientists
Biological pest control
Heard of (N)403148 211651201 511
Worthwhile84.184.5 94.895.593.5 96.3
Not worthwhile1.52.7 1.4
Don't know14.412.8 2.3
Not worried43.735.1 45.457.948.3 60.3
Worried30.350.0 46.437.046.3 36.0
Slightly14.16.8 7.2
Somewhat16.924.3 20.918.323.9 11.4
Very10.921.6 12.311.814.4 8.4
Extremely4.22.7 2.2
Don't know26.014.9 3.7
Silicon chips
Heard of (N)366158 184629192 500
Worthwhile66.468.4 87.591.787.0 92.8
Not worthwhile1.61.9 2.4
Don't know32.029.7 4.8
Not worried54.152.5 87.0
Worried9.313.3 11.47.912.0 7.4
Slightly10.77.0 8.77.610.9 6.4
Somewhat7.18.9 3.6
Very4.16.3 1.8
Extremely1.60 0.4
Don't know36.634.2 5.6
Heard of (N)516201 217702240 542
Worthwhile84.989.5 93.596.692.9 97.4
Not worthwhile1.74.5 1.1
Don't know13.46.0 1.5
Not worried38.230.9 35.050.938.8 53.7
Worried40.360.2 58.143.452.5 41.9
Slightly14.18.5 8.311.012.9 11.4
Somewhat16.923.4 22.617.820.8 16.4
Very13.020.9 20.712.815.0 11.6
Extremely8.510.9 6.1
Don't know21.50.9 4.4
Fibre optics
Heard of (N)507200 216699236 540
Worthwhile85.888.0 94.096.494.5 97.1
Not worthwhile1.01.5 0.9
Don't know13.210.5 2.0
Not worried68.476.0 83.389.385.6 90.6
Worried6.57.0 4.8
Slightly14.66.5 7.0
Somewhat6.73.0 1.5
Very2.04.5 0.9
Extremely0.40 0.7
Don't know25.117.0 4.6
Heard of (N)509198 217685231 533
Worthwhile89.284.8 87.693.790.9 94.7
Not worthwhile3.56.6 3.2
Don't know7.38.6 2.1
Not worried27.121.7 24.040.328.1 43.9
Worried56.870.2 68.755.665.4 53.5
Slightly7.94.0 7.1
Somewhat14.914.5 13.416.815.6 16.7
Very25.129.5 29.021.928.6 20.6
Extremely18.121.0 22.610.913.4 11.1
Don't know16.18.1 2.6
In vitro fertilisation
Heard of (N)505200 216701241 538
Worthwhile57.667.0 78.777.771.4 81.0
Not worthwhile21.614.0 12.518.322.0 15.8
Don't know20.819.0 3.2
Not worried20.813.5 22.230.522.0 33.5
Worried60.681.0 63.0
Slightly11.88.5 10.4
Somewhat17.319.0 15.721.119.9 20.1
Very23.030.5 34.724.427.4 22.7
Extremely17.523.0 14.412.116.2 11.5
Don't know18.65.5 3.5
Heard of (N)465198 214692234 536
Worthwhile84.787.4 92.596.494.4 96.6
Not worthwhile0.91.0 1.5
Don't know14.411.6 1.9
Not worried64.164.7 78.587.983.3 89.6
Worried10.112.1 6.7
Slightly12.04.0 7.5
Somewhat8.27.1 3.0
Very3.06.6 0.9
Extremely1.51.0 1.3
Don't know25.823.2 3.7
Genetic engineering
Heard of (N)495197 214692229 540
Worthwhile76.281.2 91.692.386.5 94.4
Not worthwhile6.54.1 2.6
Don't know17.414.7 3.0
Not worried19.411.7 16.438.324.9 43.3
Worried60.879.2 75.758.169.9 53.5
Slightly11.15.6 7.910.17.9 11.3
Somewhat18.218.8 14.517.817.5 16.5
Very21.427.4 31.320.124.0 17.2
Extremely19.827.9 25.214.321.8 12.8
Don't know19.89.1 3.2

Figure 3-4 Comparative public concern about the impact of developments in science and technology between Japan and New Zealand
The results are based on the number of respondents who said that they had heard of each development (Q5a), and the degree of worry about the impact of the developments (Q5d) is plotted. Results from New Zealand are from the survey of Couchman & Fink-Jensen (1990).

Figure 3-5 Comparative concerns about the impacts of science developments between Japan and New Zealand
The proportion of the respondents who had heard of each development who were worried about the impact of each development on their country (Q5b) is plotted. Results from New Zealand from the survey of Couchman & Fink-Jensen (1990).

3.5. Benefits and Harms from Science and Technology

In areas of the application of science and technology that are associated with benefits and risks, it may be more useful in opinion surveys to ask questions about the benefits and the risks, as done in Q5, as well as approval of the techniques in general, and for specific applications. The relative benefits and harms expressed by respondents to Q5 are represented in Figure 3-6. Basically all the developments are considered to be of benefit by the majority of respondents. There are some differences in the position of the eight science developments on the scattergrams. Pesticides stays at a similar position, of high benefit and high concern, and silicon chips, fibre optics and superconductors stay at positions of low concern and high benefit. IVF shifts considerably, being more favourably considered in New Zealand than in Japan. Biological pest control is associated with more concern in New Zealand, even though it is considered the most worthwhile development. Biotechnology has a higher level of concern in Japan, even though more people think it is worthwhile compared to New Zealand. Genetic engineering stays at the position of high concern in both samples.

Q6 also addressed the general attitude to the benefit and/or harm perceived to be done from science in general, and is similar to that used in surveys in New Zealand, Australia, USA and Europe. Q6 asked people whether they thought science and technology did more harm than good. The results are in Table 3-4. The Japanese high school biology teachers and the public gave similar responses, with 58% and 56%, respectively, thinking that they did more good. Only 6% of the public and 3% of the teachers thought that science and technology did more harm. Scientists had a more optimistic picture, with 78% saying science and technology did more good and only 2% saying it did more harm than good. However, academics that were not scientists had a similar view to the public (N=164, results for Q6; 3.7% harm, 57.3% good, 39% said the same)! Students had a more negative view, despite the fact that most were science students.

Table 3-4 Does science lead to more benefits than harm?

Q6. Overall do you think science and technology do more harm than good, more good than harm, or about the same of each?

HighSchool Biology Teachers

University of Tsukuba Staff
Total Scientists
Number530 200223 713242 544
moreharm5.8 12.03.1 2.44.1 1.8
moregood55.1 38.057.9 72.957.0 77.8
same39.1 50.039.0 24.738.8 20.4

Figure 3-6 Comparative perceptions of science developments between Japan and New Zealand
The results are based on the number of respondents who said that they had heard of each development (Q5a), and are presented as scattergrams, with number of respondents who thought each development was worthwhile for their country versus the number of respondents who were worried about the impact of the developments. Results from New Zealand are from the survey of Couchman & Fink-Jensen (1990).

The results are consistent with the results of a question asked in Japan in January 1990 (N=2239, PMO 1990c), about whether people thought scientific development led to more "plus" or more "minus", the same, with a "don't know" option. 53% said "plus", 31% said the "same", 7% said "minus" and 10% said they "didn't know". These results were similar to results obtained in 1987. This question was similar to one asked in the UK and in Australia, and the results were also similar. In a 1989 public survey in the U.K., 1020 public were asked this question. 44% answered "more good", 37% said about the "same", and 9% said "more harm", and 10% "didn't know" (Kenward 1989). These results were similar to the U.K. in 1985. In Australia, in 1989, 757 public were asked the same question, and 56% said "more good", 26% said about the "same", and 10% said "more harm", with 2% saying they "didn't know" (Anderson 1989). The Japanese public may be slightly more optimistic about the benefits of science and technology than the public in the U.K., and share similar views to Australians. The most optimistic respondents to this question were respondents to a 1989 survey in Beijing (N=4911 Zhang 1991). 82% said more good, 2% said more harm, 12% said the same and 5% said "don't know". In 1986 in the USA, a different but related question was asked to 1273 public (OTA 1987). They were asked to answer this question over a 20 year time frame. 62% said they thought the benefits would outweigh the risks, 28% thought the benefits would not outweigh the risks, and 11% said that it depends on the use, but the option about whether the risks outweigh the benefits was not asked so we cannot compare this result.

One of the important concerns, as will be considered in chapter 4, is of environmental harm and damage to nature. There have been some bad cases of environmental pollution in Japan, notably Minamata disease, caused by mercury poisoning. A significant proportion of the Agency for the Environment's budget still goes towards paying compensation to the people and families affected. The results of the Prime Minister's Office surveys on pollution were discussed above. In Japan, in the Nikkei (1983) survey of business people, people were asked whether they thought science and technology would make life richer and more convenient; 76% agreed, with 8% disagreing. 29% said they thought humanity would be lost, but 43% disagreed. 30% said nature would be destroyed, but 42% said it would not be. In response to Q7 we will examine the feelings expressed regarding genetic manipulation. This apparent concern about environmental pollution is one reason that some people give for the delays in the introduction of GMOs to the environment in Japan, but public resistance to environmental releases is not evident in the replies to Q7 and Q19, as we will see in chapter 4. On a negative side, one could also question whether Japanese do care about environmental pollution when one observes the frequency with which people throw litter around the countryside, and from the number of advertising signs that adorn trees along avenues. In Tsukuba Science City, many avenues are to be found, and a casual count on a typical day will find that often all of the trees by shops have some advertisement board tied to them! One can even see signs on trees placed there by government offices.

In this survey, the particular list of 8 techniques in science and technology in Q5 was chosen, mainly because the results of the questions were known in New Zealand. It may have been useful to compare the results to the extremely emotive issue of nuclear power, for which there are also some useful international opinion data (Slovic et al. 1991), but it was decided to keep the same questions. It may have led to a different result to the answers, especially to Q6, if the nuclear issue had been brought to people's mind. The results of surveys do depend on the subjects that people are thinking of. The responses to the general questions, Q6 and Q16a, could depend on the surrounding questions.

Q16a was another measure of the perceived benefits of science. The results are shown in Table 3-5. Scientists showed highest agreement with this statement, with 88% agreeing that science makes an important contribution to the quality of life in Japan. 96% of company scientists agreed with this statement. Responses also correlated with the interest in science (Q1) and awareness of science developments (Q5) and education. Another feature, is the way student response mirrors the response of the high school biology teachers. The public opinion in Japan and New Zealand was the same for this question, following the same distribution curve in responses, with about 81% agreeing with this statement (Figure 3-6). There was a shift among Japanese high school biology teachers towards less strong agreement with this statement than the public, whereas in New Zealand the opposite trend was observed. Both Japanese scientists and teachers less strongly agreed with this statement than their counterparts in New Zealand though the total number agreeing to some degree with this statement was the same. This result is in conflict with the comparative results of Q5b, where more Japanese thought that the eight diverse areas of research were more worthwhile than respondents in New Zealand.

Table 3-5 Science and the quality of life

Q16a "Does science make an important contribution to the quality of life in Japan?"

High School Biology Teachers

University of Tsukuba Staff
Total Scientists
Number513 194220 701241 545
Strongly disagree2.9 2.10.9 0.90.4 0.9
Disagree2.0 3.11.8 1.82.9 1.5
Neither14.0 16.514.6 10.113.7 9.2
Agree55.0 58.762.7 53.160.2 50.8
Agree Strongly26.1 19.620.0 34.122.8 37.6

In January 1990, people were asked whether they thought that their work becomes more interesting as science and technology develops (N=2239, PMO 1990c). 42% said that they thought so, while 36% said no, and 22% "couldn't say". This was somewhat less positive than when asked in 1987. They were also asked the question, whether they thought most of today's problems will be solved by science and technology; 24% said yes, 59% said no, and 17% said that they "couldn't say", which was more positive for science than in 1987. Asked the question, "is the living standard increased by development of science and technology?", 76% said yes (74% in 1987), 3% said no (same as 1987), and 15% said it was the same (18% in 1987), while 6% said they "don't know". However, 38% said that morality was not improved by science while only 8% said it was, and 34% said morality stayed the same, with 20% saying they "don't know".

In 1991, some questions on biotechnology were included in the Eurobarometer survey, in EC countries, involving interviews of 12,800 public (MacKenzie 1991). Half the people thought that biotechnology would improve life, while solar energy, computers, telecommunications and new materials all scored higher. 10% thought that biotechnology would make life worse, and in the Netherlands and Denmark, 20% thought it would make life worse. Germans, Danes and Dutch people understood much, and also saw the most risk, though people in Britain were the third highest country in average understanding, and had lower levels of concern. The word genetic engineering was also associated with higher levels of concern, and less benefits, than biotechnology, as found in this survey in Japan. In another recent public opinion poll (Dixon 1991a), in the U.K., France, Italy and Germany (performed in 1990 by Gallup for Eli Lily, N=3156), 63% of the respondents agreed with the statement "biotechnology will make life better" (69% in France, 57% in Britain, 64% in Italy, and 53% in Germany), and 13% agreed with the statement "life would become worse" (18% in Italy, 16% in Germany, 11% in France and 8% in Britain).

There have been some comparative questions asked between Japan and the USA in the mid 1980's (Joyce 1988). These indicated that Japanese have less confidence in benefits from science and technology than Americans do, despite a greater knowledge about science in Japan. 79% of Americans, and 40% of Japanese thought that science and technology have a positive effect on working conditions, and 69% of Americans and less than half the Japanese said science and technology had improved their personal enjoyment of life. There was more tendency for the Japanese to put "don't know", as found in this survey. In a Beijing, China, survey (N=4911, Zhang 1991), 88% of the respondents thought that the ease and comfort of modern life mainly relies on science and technology.

The current results suggest that science continues to have much positive support from people in all industrialised countries that have been surveyed. This suggests that there will be positive support for most scientific developments. However, people do have concerns, especially about genetic engineering. This issue is examined in more detail in chapters 4 and 6. The level of concern about science and technology shown by the respondents to this survey, and internationally, is no lower in people with more awareness of the techniques. In Japan, and many other countries, some people believe that people with more understanding of techniques have less concern, but this is not true, as also noted above in the results from the Eurobarometer survey. We can see this clearly from the responses to this survey by the scientists, teachers and public. In the next chapter we will see whether the underlying reasons for concern are similar or not.

Figure 3-7 Science and the quality of life
Comparative responses to Q16a in Japan and New Zealand.
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