Darryl R. J. Macer, Ph.D. Eubios Ethics Institute 1992
page 39-81 in Attitudes to Genetic Engineering: Japanese and International Comparisons D.R.J. Macer (Eubios Ethics Institute, 1992).
4.1. Knowledge of Genetic Manipulation
More specific questions than those asked in Q5, were used in Q7.
Rather than testing concerns about the techniques included by
the broad term "genetic engineering", the views of genetic
manipulation on four types of organisms were examined: humans,
animals, plants and microbes. The questions used by Couchman &
Fink-Jensen (1990) were used, with room for free response to list
reasons for acceptance, benefits and risks perceived. The questions
Improving Awareness of Genetic Manipulation
Q7a asked about the awareness of techniques of genetic manipulation, in human cells, microbes, plants and animals. The results are summarised in Table 4-1. The most familiar was genetic manipulation of plants, with 45% of the public saying that they could understand this, and only 8% saying that they had not heard of it. Surprisingly, the least familiar was genetic manipulation of microbes, despite the decade of use of microbes for production of recombinant DNA products, though still 33% said that they understood this, while 21% said that they had not heard of it. The awareness of genetic manipulation (Q7a) was correlated with the interest in science (Q1) and the awareness of genetic engineering (Q5a).
These levels of awareness are higher than past surveys in Japan, suggesting that public understanding of genetic manipulation is improving. This was discussed in chapter 3, for the general words "biotechnology" and "genetic engineering". Less than 8% of the public respondents had not heard of any type of genetic manipulation, which represents a very high level of awareness, especially if we compare it to a figure of 25-30% in New Zealand (Couchman & Fink-Jensen 1990). The New Zealand value was obtained in interviews with a much higher response rate, possibly some of the Japanese non-respondents did not respond because they did not understand anything, so the real level of awareness may be somewhat lower.
The high school biology teachers were most familiar with genetic manipulation of microbes, which 83% said they could understand, with plant genetic manipulation being the next most familiar. Only 3.5% of teachers said that they had not heard of these techniques, but they had less familiarity with genetic manipulation of animals and humans. Scientists had a very similar level of familiarity with these techniques to the teachers, with the total academics having somewhat less familiarity. Students were intermediate in their familiarity. The responses by New Zealand teachers and scientists to Q7a indicate a higher level of unawareness of genetic engineering in humans and animals. Part of this difference could be related to the publicity associated with the increasing use of human gene therapy, in mid 1991 compared to mid 1990, however this may not explain all the differences.
Values written in small figures are those obtained
in New Zealand (Couchman & Fink-Jensen 1990). Note that New
Zealand teachers and scientists were only asked whether they had
heard, or not heard of, the subjects (Q7a).
|Not heard||35 14.5||9.9||32 9.3||10.9||14.6||34 9.5|
|Heard||40 49.2||41.6||68 29.8||31.1||45.5||66 25.8|
|Not heard||30 8.3||3.0||4 3.6||3.3||6.1||12 2.4|
|Heard||44 46.5||32.2||96 18.7||25.5||44.3||88 20.0|
|Not heard||59 21.2||14.8||4 3.5||6.8||13.5||19 3.3|
|Heard||29 45.8||32.2||96 13.8||25.2||44.1||81 18.2|
|Not heard||31 8.1||5.0||12 5.4||5.1||7.4||16 4.0|
|Heard||43 52.5||40.1||88 26.0||30.8||50.6||84 24.2|
4.2. Acceptability of Genetic Manipulation
To be aware of genetic manipulation is a different thing from accepting genetic manipulation, the same as is true of any scientific development. In the responses to Q7b we see clear differentiation by all groups of the acceptability of genetic manipulation depending on the organism, see Table 4-2. There is clear support for genetic manipulation of plants and microbes from all groups. There is less support for genetic manipulation of animals, but still a majority of all groups thinks that it is acceptable. However, the public thought that genetic manipulation of human cells (which will often be interpreted to mean human beings), is unacceptable. Other groups were more equally split on this question, though only scientists had a majority in favour of it.
In both Japan and New Zealand genetic manipulation of plants is the most acceptable type, see Figure 4-1. Followed by genetic manipulation of microbes, animals and humans, in order of decreasing acceptability. About half of the teacher and scientist samples think that human genetic manipulation (human cells) is acceptable, in both countries. This preference order is the same as that obtained in the USA in 1986 (OTA 1987), but their question asked interviewees to rank their acceptability on a ten point scale, 1-10, so we cannot compare the acceptability ranks. It is also very likely that the acceptability values have shifted since 1986 in the USA.
The reasons for unacceptability were asked, and these are presented in Table 4-3. They are perhaps the most interesting result. For different organisms they were different, as in New Zealand. The method used to analyse the reasoning was to assign the comments to categories. A total of 38 different categories were used in the computer data analysis. Although a variety of comments were written, generally they could easily be assigned to categories. To make this assessment more standard, all computer categorisation of comments was personally done within a short time period. For each distinct reason given in the comment, a count of 1 was scored in one of the categories of the data sheet in the computer. The most reasons given for a single comment was 3, but generally there were only 1 or 2 reasons. Also, a high proportion did not write any comment, as is shown in Table 4-3. More university students and high school biology teachers wrote comments than did scientists, academics and the public. Interestingly, more public wrote comments than scientists. There were some common reasons given, and these could be shown in the table separately, whereas some less common comments were grouped with similar comments, so that in Table 4-3 a total of 14 categories are presented. To give a further idea of the comments, some typical comments for each category are listed below (from public respondents unless indicated "t"=teachers or "a"=academic). The organisms that they were cited for are indicated (H-human cells, P-plants, M-microbes, A-animals, All).
Q7b: Human cells
Figure 4-1 Comparative acceptability of genetic manipulation
in Japan and New Zealand
New Zealand data from the survey of Couchman & Fink-Jensen (1990).
The values are expressed as %'s of the respondents
who answered that it was unacceptable in Q7b (number given in
the table). Values written in small figures are those obtained
in New Zealand (Couchman & Fink-Jensen 1990).
|Unethical, Bioethics||Public||16 6.8||1.0||0.7||35 6.6|
|Teacher||43 17.9||0 3.7||0 2.6||33 3.7|
|Scient.||8 13.3||2.5||0||12 9.9|
|Fear of unknown||Public||8 8.4||11 9.3||16 7.5||8 10.5|
|Teacher||11 13.7||22 7.4||12 10.3||18 11.1|
|Scient.||10 14.6||13 15.0||17 16.7||18 10.7|
|Unnatural,||Public||28 17.3||35 24.7||22 20.1||22 21.1|
|Interfering with nature||Student||9.3||10.0||7.3||11.6|
|Teacher||10 6.8||26 18.5||8 12.8||16 14.8|
|Scient.||8 6.3||15 15.0||8 13.0||14 10.7|
|Teacher||6 3.4||0 0||4 0||2 0|
|Scient.||7 4.2||0||4 0||2 0.8|
|Insufficient controls||Public||7 3.8||8 1.0||10 0.7||7 2.6|
|Teacher||19 9.4||27 18.5||20 17.9||24 13.0|
|Scient.||21 20.0||28 5.0||31 1.9||27 9.9|
|Human health effect,||Public||5 1.1||0||3 3.7||0.4|
|New human diseases||Student||2.5||0||4.9||1.4|
|Teacher||3 1.7||0 3.7||20 7.7||2 1.9|
|Scient.||2.1||3 0||2 5.6||4 1.7|
|Disaster, out of control||Public||16 7.0||12 3.1||12 6.0||9 5.7|
|Long term effect||Students||8.5||13.3||14.6||11.6|
|Teacher||12 4.2||21 14.8||42 25.6||18 9.3|
|Scient.||14 4.2||21 7.5||35 16.7||20 6.6|
|Ecological Effects||Public||7.8||12 26.8||18.7||12 14.5|
|Teacher||0 2.6||18 18.5||4 10.3||0 13.0|
|Scient.||0 1.7||21 12.5||6 13.0||2 8.3|
|Danger of human misuse||Public||9 4.1||8 3.1||13 2.2||6 3.9|
|Teacher||12 12.8||3 11.1||14 10.3||7 7.4|
|Scient.||11 9.2||10 10.0||19 5.6||12 6.6|
|Eugenics, Cloning||Public||5 5.1||0||0||0.4|
|Teacher||10 8.5||0 0||0 0||0 0|
|Deformities, mutations||Public||3 2.4||1.0||0||2 1.3|
|New plant or animal||Student||0.8||0||0||0|
|diseases||Teachers||2 2.6||3.7||0||2 3.7|
|Scient.||2 2.0||3 0||0 0||6 0.8|
|Not stated||Public||9 26.8||25 25.8||33 35.8||10 30.3|
|Scient.||3 28.3||3 50.0||4 38.9||4 33.9|
|Number who said it was||Public||758 370||208 97||241 134||610 228|
|Teacher||97 117||14 27||34 39||45 54|
|Scient.||79 240||39 40||52 54||49 121|
Figure 4-2 Schematic summary of the reasons given for the unacceptability of genetic manipulation, in response to Q7b, in Japan and New Zealand
There was a reasonable diversity of replies. For genetic manipulation of human cells the most common responses were that it is unethical, there is the danger of human misuse, eugenics and insufficient controls; and the reasons such as it is unnatural, it is playing God, or the fear of the unknown. In the reason "fear of unknown", most respondents were concerned that there may be unknown results, rather than it being an unknown "area" of research.
The results are comparable to those obtained in New Zealand, as can be seen from the values in Table 4-3, and these are summarised in Figure 4-2. The New Zealand values given in Table 4-3 are only approximate guides, but it is useful to make a comparison. When a New Zealand value is missing, it is because it was not given in the results of Couchman & Fink-Jensen (1990). The following groupings were used (if not obvious from the categories listed): In the results from New Zealand, the reasons "playing God", and "unnatural", were combined, under the comment "unnatural" the reasons "danger of human misuse", and "biowarfare" were combined into "Danger of human misuse" and there were varying frequencies (5-15%) of "other" comments, that are not put in any category in Table 4-3. In Japan these comments were scored separately. All the reported comment categories in the New Zealand results were used for defining the categories for scoring the comments of the Japanese respondents, and they were grouped in the table, as described above. Additionally several other new categories were used for the Japanese comments.
The most frequent reason why teachers did not accept genetic manipulation of human cells was because they thought it was unethical, or there were ethical problems. There was a comparatively low level of concern expressed about ethical problems when using animals in Japan. There were also significant proportions of respondents who thought that genetic manipulation was interfering with nature, or that it was profanity to God. These respondents may see these techniques as unacceptable, regardless of the state of technology and regulation. Although many scientists react to people with these views as irrational, it is noteworthy that about 16% of the scientists and teachers in New Zealand and Japan who found these techniques unacceptable also shared these views. In a public opinion survey in Japan in December 1985 (N=7439, PMO 1986a), people were asked about the relationship between nature and human beings, and chose between four options. 51% said we should use natural systems for human beings, 29% said it is bad to do artificial things so we should leave things to nature, 18% said humans can control creatures or nature, and 12% didn't know. The results of the present survey are consistent with these.
As has been noted in some major biotechnology science journals (Dixon 1991b), supporters of genetic manipulation should accept that people may reject these techniques for what the supporters see as irrational reasons, no matter how knowledgeable they are about the techniques. There is the commonly held view in Japan that when people understand the technology they will accept these things, however, as found in all countries, many people continue to hold these type of views and reject new technology even when they understand it. Although to fight disease is against nature, yet we all do it, there are limits in people's mind to interventions in nature. It is better for the supporters of the use of these techniques to try to understand these views, which many of their scientific peers also hold, than to continue to focus on attempts to change such views.
As will be seen in the responses to Q13 and Q14, in chapter 7, which asked people whether they would use gene therapy, the majority do accept the use of human genetic manipulation for curing serious genetic diseases. Q7 was a general question and was expected to show lower approval of genetic manipulation on humans than the specific questions.
In general the other frequently cited comments in all samples for all topics were connected with the unknown nature or danger (disaster) of the results. There was also much concern about insufficient controls, especially by teachers and scientists. If what are seen to be safe and adequate controls are established, the people who had these reasons for objecting to genetic manipulation, may accept it. As noted below, there was also qualified acceptability by some respondents, depending on the introduction of appropriate control measures. It is up to the researchers to prove that the results represent an acceptable level of risk, and to adjust regulatory procedures to those that are seen to be adequate. A discussion of the regulation of biotechnology is in section 8.4.
There was also concern about human misuse of these techniques, which again, could be eased by further guarantees over who uses these techniques. For human beings, another major response was concerns about eugenics, and cloning. These fears may be eased by the introduction of laws, but we should note that in Europe where there are some laws to prevent such abuses, there is still much concern with eugenics (see section 4.4).
In addition to the respondents who said that genetic manipulation was unacceptable because there were insufficient controls, there were also some respondents who said that it was acceptable providing there were controls. These were a sizable number and are shown in Table 4-4. The actual number of respondents who were concerned about controls should include these respondents in addition to those who said that the area was unacceptable because of insufficient controls. It may have been useful to ask respondents for their reasons for both response options to Q7b-d, as a few respondents remarked. It may be significant that such a high proportion of respondents who said that the techniques were acceptable, did spontaneously write down some qualification to their response choice. Less students wrote such comments, in contrast to the general trend in the answers where more students gave reasons when asked for them, which suggests either that they were not very concerned that extra controls were necessary, or that they were still young and used to answering exam questions in a rigid way therefore were not so forthcoming with additional remarks.
Some of the comments were:
The proportions of respondents who said that genetic
manipulation was acceptable, but wrote that limits were required.
The values are expressed as %'s of the respondents who answered
that it was acceptable in Q7b.
The results of Q7c, which asked people whether they thought there were benefits of genetic manipulation, are summarised in Table 4-5. Both plants and microbes were perceived to give the most benefit, with genetic manipulation of animals significantly lower. However, still more than 70% of teachers and scientists saw a benefit from genetic manipulation of animals. There were less benefits perceived from human genetic manipulation. Teachers and scientists saw more benefit from these techniques than the public or students. More New Zealanders believed that there would be benefits from genetic manipulation, especially for animals and plants, and the comparative results are represented in Figure 4-3.
The question was phrased to include benefits to the country. Some respondents wrote that the question should not be limited to national interests (see the examples of comments). Of course this is true, and it is in fact encouraging that some people noted this point, reflecting some concern that benefits of technology should be for all people of the world. This topic will be discussed in chapter 5, it is a more complex question to answer this general question in terms of the whole world, than many people imagine.
The perceived benefits were also asked, and these are summarised in Table 4-6. The method used to analyse the reasoning was to assign the comments to categories, as was done for Q7b, described above. A total of 37 different categories were used in the computer data analysis. Although a variety of comments was written, generally they could easily be assigned to categories. For each distinct reason given in the comment, a count of 1 was scored in the appropriate category of the data sheet in the computer. The most reasons given for a single answer was 4, but generally there were only 1 or 2 comments. Also, a high proportion did not write any comment, as is shown in Table 4-6. Teachers and students showed the highest response, but unlike the reasons for unacceptability, scientists listed more benefits than the public. There were some common reasons given, and these could be shown in the Table separately, whereas some less common comments were grouped with similar comments, so that in Table 4-6 a total of 14 categories are presented. To give further a further idea of the comments, some typical comments for each category are listed below (from public respondents unless indicated "t"=teachers or "a"=academic). The organisms that they were cited for are indicated (H-human cells, P-plants, M-microbes, A-animals, All).
Q7: Human cells
Q7: Plant cells
Figure 4-3 Comparative perceptions of the benefits and risks
of genetic manipulation in Japan and New Zealand
Data from New Zealand from the survey of Couchman & Fink-Jensen (1990).
Values are expressed as %'s of the respondents who
thought that there were benefits (number written in table). Values
written in small figures are those obtained in New Zealand (Couchman
& Fink-Jensen 1990).
|Human genetic disease,||Public||22 22.8||0.5||0.3||0.4|
|cure or prevent||Students||30.9||0.6||0.7||2.6|
|Genetic disease||Teachers||50 47.8||0 0||2 0||0 0.7|
|Scient.||38 40.8||0 0||0 0||0 0|
|Disease control||Public||31 14.8||2 3.4||27 3.5||16 2.4|
|Teacher||12 19.5||44 7.3||17 2.2||33 5.3|
|Scient.||20 19.9||38 7.2||9 2.2||27 3.7|
|Medical Advance,||Public||18 8.5||2 2.4||13 15.6||3 5.2|
|Teacher||28 17.7||20 3.1||4 13.5||8 8.6|
|Scient.||58 11.8||3 1.9||23 8.2||6 6.0|
|Scientific knowledge||Public||7 1.7||0.3||10 2.2||6 3.6|
|Teacher||1 6.2||4 4.2||1 5.6||2 9.9|
|Scient.||2 5.2||2 3.7||8 5.3||3 11.0|
|Agricultural Advance||Public||0||22 2.6||13 1.6||10 0.8|
|Teacher||0||24 9.4||25 3.9||14 6.6|
|Scient.||0||22 4.3||30 1.8||10 3.7|
|Different varieties||Public||0||20 14.6||2.9||13.3|
|Teacher||0||30 31.9||0 4.5||15 28.9|
|Scient.||0||24 25.2||6.7||13 22.2|
|Increased yield to make||Public||1.1||23 21.5||7.3||16 15.7|
|Agriculture, Food||Teachers||0||42 26.2||0 9.0||39 17.1|
|Scient.||0||47 25.8||10.5||38 18.3|
|Humanity benefits,||Public||22 13.1||3 10.2||9 11.4||6 12.9|
|Whole world benefits,||Student||10.3||11.0||14.8||13.2|
|Living standard increases||Teacher||4 3.5||0 5.8||0 8.4||0 10.5|
|Scient.||11 9.1||1 6.9||6 8.0||2 8.1|
|Exports increase,||Public||4 6.3||9 4.5||2 5.7||11 6.9|
|Teacher||0 0.9||3 0.5||9 0.6||9 0.7|
|Scient.||2 1.6||11 4.3||5 5.3||14 3.9|
|Increased quality,||Public||5.1||(38) 12.3||3.8||(49) 9.7|
|Teacher||0 0||(22) 4.7||0 0||(40) 2.6|
|Scient.||1.3||(26) 3.9||2.0||(45) 4.7|
|Make useful substances,||Public||0.6||1.6||3.5||3 1.6|
|Not stated||Public||20 35.2||8 38.2||30 39.7||14 37.9|
|Scient.||3 23.9||4 29.5||6 30.1||5 29.8|
|Number who answered||Public||638 176||1250 382||523 315||930 248|
|that there was a benefit||Student||97||163||142||114|
|Teacher||113 113||257 191||216 178||199 152|
|Scient.||94 306||213 461||172 449||177 383|
Nearly half of the teachers who said there was a benefit from genetic manipulation of human cells said it would lead to cures for genetic disease, and there were also many who put another medical benefit as their reason. From plants and animals, the major perceived benefit was making new and different varieties, and increased yield to make more food. The category "agricultural advance" was only used for those that said there was an agricultural advance in general, and if they specified new varieties of plant or increased food production as a benefit, only these reasons were scored. The largest benefit seen for genetic manipulation of microorganisms was to make medical products such as hormones, and other useful substances. The comments were scored, depending on whether the respondent listed only a medical product, in which case they were not scored for the general "production of useful substance" category. Only if they listed an industrial product or other useful substance was it scored in that general category (see the examples).
The results from the New Zealand survey conducted by Couchman & Fink-Jensen (1990) are also shown in Table 4-6, and these are schematically represented in Figure 4-4. The New Zealand values have been rounded off to the nearest integer, but are useful guides. The results are very similar in general. Half the teachers in both countries saw the benefit of curing or preventing genetic disease from genetic manipulation of human cells. In Japan almost all the respondents used the word "cure", but in New Zealand almost all the respondents used the word "prevent". This could be related to the use of genetic screening to prevent genetic disease, but it is not possible to be sure if this linguistic difference represents any different thinking, because the English word "prevent" can also mean cure, not only screening.
Other medical benefits, such as disease control, cancer cure, and medical advance, were common for all respondents. The high perception of medical benefits is consistent with the results of Japanese public opinion surveys in which respondents must respond to a list of multiple options. For example in December 1985 people were asked what were their expectations from life sciences (N=7439, PMO 1986a). The responses were chosen from a list; 45% agreed that they would allow treatment of cancer and genetic disease, 13% said pollution could be stopped, 11% said they would increase living standard, 5% said they would lead to new industry, 4% said they would allow us to produce more food, 4% said they would lead to the development of new products and 4% had no special hope, with 13% who "didn't know". In another question looking at expectations, over a 15 year period, 64% said that they expected human disease prevention, 69% said that they thought life would be lengthened, while 49% thought that ideas about the family would be changed and 50% thought that ordinary diet would be changed. In a 1986 general science survey (N=2376, PMO 1986b), 53% of people said that they felt science and technology in medical techniques, 36% said they felt it from advanced scientific technology such as electronics and biotechnology, and 31% said that they felt it from the general quality of life and plentifulness of food.
The most common response in both countries for a benefit from genetic manipulation of microbes was to make useful substances. Economic benefits were at a low level, with more respondents in New Zealand listing these benefits, perhaps because the economy is so dependent upon biotechnology, in terms of agriculture. In the reasons cited for genetic manipulation of animals, many more New Zealanders cited disease control of animals, as a reason. In both countries similar proportions cited "new varieties" or "increased production and food", with a trend for more New Zealanders to cite the later.
The category "different varieties" in the table includes those respondents who cited the benefit of making new varieties, and the benefit of climate resistant varieties. Among New Zealand teachers who saw benefits from plant genetic manipulation, 15% cited "making climate resistant varieties", whereas in Japan only 2% cited this. The difference in the number of people who cited the benefit of "increased quality" of plants and animals between the two countries may be due to drawing a different category boundary, in New Zealand this category included improved strains, or varieties, whereas "improved varieties" were included in the "new varieties" category in Japan, to distinguish that comment from comments "improved quality". In the category shown in Table 4-5, "increased quality" included making a beautiful product, such as ornamental plants, which represented half of the respondents in that category in Japan. In New Zealand, teachers cited about 3-7% "other" comments, and scientists 5-7% others, which were not reported so are not included in Table 4-6.
In the 1983 Nikkei survey of business people in Japan, people were asked what were their hopes from the future of biotechnology (Nikkei 1983). To attempt to determine what benefits they hoped for from biotechnology, they were also asked to respond to a list of benefits, 73% said medical benefits such as a cancer cure, 65% said for developing plant and animal varieties, 25% agreed it would clean the environment, 17% saw benefits in energy and 12% saw benefits in saving energy in the chemical industry. People were also asked whether they thought biotechnology was suitable for Japan, and 69% said yes. This value is much lower than the value of Q5b in the current survey. These people were asked to respond to a list of possible reasons, and 61% agreed because it was intensive knowledge technology, 43% said it was suitable because Japan has no raw materials or energy, 40% said because Japan is good at fermentation technology, 18% said because of future technology development, and 16% said because Japanese are good at miniature technology. In the Dentsu (1985) survey of the public, people were asked to respond to statements asking what was the context of their interest in biotechnology (41% of the total who said that they were interested); 59% said to develop medicine and cure disease, 34% said to increase varieties of plants and animals to increase food production, 21% said to make new varieties to make new foods, 25% said to develop energy sources, 11% said as new materials for the chemical industry, and 21% said nothing special.
In the February 1991 survey by the Agency for the Environment (N=1363, EA 1992) people were asked to chose from a list of responses, the closest response to their ideas on the usefulness of genetic engineering, among the biotechnologies. It should be noted that the people answering this questionnaire had been given several pages of introductory notes to read before answering the questions, which may have affected their responses. 31% chose "it will make new medicines and useful organisms", 35% chose "our country should always actively develop new technology like this one", 23% chose "the history is not yet long enough so its usefulness is not clearly seen", 8% chose "because I'm worried about adverse environmental or health effects, it is not useful", and 2% said something else. Their results are consistent with the results obtained here, but the results of this survey give a better impression of what the people actually think, because there was no prompting in the question. Therefore, the results of this survey should be encouraging for those who want to promote biotechnology, in that many people could think of some benefits from the technology. Actually genetic manipulation may not be the most widely known of the biotechnological techniques, judging from the results of earlier surveys, and the results of Q5, where more people understood biotechnology than those who understood genetic engineering.
In a recent European public opinion poll in the U.K., France, Italy and Germany (performed in 1990 by Gallup for Eli Lily, N=3156, Dixon 1991), the respondents were asked to choose the largest benefit that they saw coming from biotechnology, between one of four possible benefits from biotechnology. Over half rated cures for serious diseases as the most important benefit. Another option was reducing our dependence upon pesticides and chemical fertilisers, which 26% of Italians, 24% of French, 22% of British and 16% of Germans, chose as the largest benefit. The respondents were asked a similar question about their largest concern. 40% of French, 35% of Germans, and 25% of British and Italian respondents chose eugenics, and slightly lower proportions overall chose environmental harm, 34% in Britain, 33% in France, 22% in Italy and 21% in Germany. Potential health hazards from laboratory genetic research were named by 29% in Italy, 17% in France, 11% in Britain and 10% in Germany. Overall one third of respondents feel that biotechnology is ethical and one third feel that it is unethical, and one third think it is in between, "neither".
Therefore, it appears that in all countries medical advances, and the ability to cure genetic diseases are the major benefits people see from genetic engineering and biotechnology. Other benefits are divided, depending on the organisms that are considered. Microorganisms are seen for both medical use and use to produce useful substances in general through fermentation. Plants and animals are seen for their obvious agricultural importance, and genetic manipulation is perceived for its ability to aid the breeding of new varieties, and to increase production of food.
Although in the European survey, discussed above, the choice of the benefit of reduced pesticide use and environmental benefits is popular, it may not actually be a common feeling. The response to Q16f, which asked if people thought GMOs would have this advantage, was supportive (see section 4.5), but from the responses to Q7c in both Japan and New Zealand, it may be very unfamiliar, despite the high level of concern expressed in Q5 about pesticides. In both New Zealand and Japan, there should be more publicity associated with this environmental benefit, though the chemical companies who make pesticides may have different priorities (see chapter 5).
4.4. Perceived Hazards of Genetic Manipulation
The results of Q7d, which asked people whether there were any hazards of genetic manipulation, are summarised in Table 4-4. The level of awareness of techniques of genetic manipulation among people in Japan has increased in the last decade, but as seen in the following results, they still have concerns. This is not surprising at all, when looking at the spread of responses among the different groups. More high school teachers perceived risk from genetic manipulation than did the public, even though more saw benefits coming from genetic manipulation. Scientists gave similar responses to the public, except that they expressed less concern with genetic manipulation of human cells (71%) compared to the public (82%).
More Japanese perceived a possibility of hazards from genetic manipulation than New Zealanders (Figure 4-3). This was especially true for genetic manipulation of humans and animals. Japanese students and teachers perceived more risks than other groups in Japan. There have been no accidents in Japan involving GMOs. In fact there has only been one field release of GMOs, compared to about 20 in New Zealand, and this may be related to the high level of perceived risk in Japan.
People were asked to express the risks that they perceived, and these are summarised in Table 4-7. The method used to assign the cited reasons, was the same as that described for the reasons given for benefits, and unacceptability. A total of 40 categories were used in this analysis, but in Table 4-7, they are grouped in 14 categories. The comments given for some were very similar to those cited for the unacceptability of the techniques, but there were many more total respondents who wrote comments to Q7d than for Q7b, because many people saw some risks. However, the proportion among the respondents who said that there were risks who wrote comments to Q7d, was generally lower than the proportion among the respondents who said that genetic manipulation was unacceptable who wrote comments to Q7b, as in New Zealand. Some people may have thought that they had already written a comment to Q7b, but many of those who said that there were risks but did not cite a risk had answered Q7b with the "acceptable" option. More scientists who saw risks wrote comments to Q7d than the scientists who cited a reason after saying that the techniques were unacceptable in Q7b. As for all the questions, Q7b,c&d, less respondents in Japan wrote comments than those in New Zealand, especially scientists and teachers (who were questioned by mail reply questionnaires in both countries).
To give further a further idea of the comments, some typical comments for each category are listed below, and a detailed representation of the public sample comments is in Figure 4-5. The comments are from public respondents unless indicated "t"=teachers or "a"=academic. The organisms that they were cited for are indicated (H-human cells, P-plants, M-microbes, A-animals, All).
Values are expressed as %'s of the respondents who
thought that there were risks (number written in table). Values
written in small figures are those obtained in New Zealand (Couchman
& Fink-Jensen 1990).
|Unethical, ethical abuse||Public||5 4.7||0||0||6 1.7|
|Teacher||28 12.5||0 0||0 0||18 2.1|
|Scient.||24 9.9||1 0.4||0 0.7||8 4.2|
|Fear of unknown||Public||13 11.6||12 17.3||11 15.0||13 13.9|
|Teacher||10 12.5||12 15.4||8 13.4||8 14.5|
|Scient.||18 14.2||18 17.3||14 15.0||22 14.4|
|Playing God, unnatural,||Public||8 8.7||13 6.3||7 5.9||9 8.1|
|Teacher||8 4.9||16 1.7||4 1.3||15 3.4|
|Scient.||2 3.8||10 4.0||3 2.9||10 4.9|
|Danger of human misuse||Public||11 10.1||8 10.5||10 12.6||9 8.1|
|Teacher||17 14.1||9 10.3||5 14.1||12 9.7|
|Scient.||16 22.0||11 22.6||13 22.3||11 20.0|
|Cloning, human||Public||6 2.7||0||0||0|
|Insufficient controls,||Public||11 5.4||15 5.7||23 4.3||12 5.4|
|Need public discussion||Student||3.6||3.6||3.6||3.7|
|first,||Teachers||10 3.8||15 6.0||8 5.4||16 4.8|
|Scient.||19 9.7||21 12.8||16 10.6||20 11.2|
|Deformities, mutations||Public||23 5.9||3.7||0.8||11 3.4|
|Teacher||11 12.0||0 4.3||0 4.0||8 7.6|
|Scient.||2 5.9||0 4.0||0 2.9||1 3.9|
|Human health,||Public||6 2.7||3 1.0||6 11.5||6 3.4|
|new human diseases||Student||3.0||9.9||18.8||9.6|
|get cancer||Teachers||4 10.3||2 2.6||2 26.8||0 2.1|
|Scient.||9 2.7||5 6.6||22 17.9||4 4.9|
|Humanity changed||Public||9 6.2||0||0||0.7|
|Teacher||8 3.3||0 0||1 0||3 0|
|Scient.||5 9.4||0 1.8||0 1.1||2 2.1|
|Disaster, out of control||Public||25 6.4||25 5.8||25 7.1||21 6.1|
|Teacher||15 3.3||18 11.1||44 11.4||20 7.6|
|Scient.||22 5.9||22 5.8||47 6.2||27 7.0|
|Ecological effects,||Public||8.9||12 23.0||5 17.0||11 19.9|
|Teacher||0 6.5||40 27.4||11 20.8||18 23.5|
|Scient.||0 4.8||10 23.0||13 13.9||16 19.3|
|Biohazard,||Public||0.7||12 4.7||5.5||6 2.4|
|spread of genes,||Students||1.2||6.3||6.5||4.4|
|spread of harmful GMOs||Teacher||4 2.2||2 17.9||32 8.7||5 19.3|
|new plant diseases||Acad.||1.8||6.4||6.0||3.3|
|new animal diseases||Scient.||2.4||28 7.5||9 7.0||4.6|
|Economic corruption of||Public||1.2||2.1||1.6||1.7|
|Unacceptable for money||Teacher||0.5||0.9||0||0.7|
|Don't need for humanity||Acad.||1.6||2.7||2.2||2.3|
|Scient.||1.6||1 2.7||2.2||2 2.1|
|Not stated||Public||14 39.9||35.1||22 37.9||18 40.5|
|Scient.||9 30.6||6 27.8||4 28.9||6 31.6|
|Number||Public||981 404||606 191||562 253||818 296|
|Teacher||83 184||68 117||153 149||61 145|
|Scient.||97 372||88 226||120 273||94 285|
Figure 4-5 Reasons cited for risks of genetic manipulation in Japan
There was greater diversity of comments in the responses to Q7d and Q7b than there was to Q7c. One could speculate whether this is due to the source of people's information, and the message coming from the media. There has been much positive information sent from those wanting to promote biotechnology via the media, usually stressing the medical or agricultural benefits of biotechnology. This may be the major source of information that people have about the benefits. The reasons given for these techniques being unacceptable or presenting risks, however, could include more spontaneous feelings. There may also be less unanimity in articles expressing concern about biotechnology.
The results can be compared with those given in New Zealand, note that 3-8% of New Zealand teachers cited "other" reasons and 2-3% of scientists cited "others", which are not indicated in Table 4-7. More respondents in New Zealand listed ethical problems as a reason, though some of the people who were included under the "eugenics" category in Japan, may have been put in the "unethical" category in New Zealand.
There was very little concern expressed in Japan about ethical abuses of animals, in the responses to Q7b and Q7d, reflecting the lack of concern about animal rights in Japan. Though, interestingly, a few respondents expressed concerns about eugenic applications on animals (Table 4-7). In the December 1985 life sciences survey (N=7439, PMO 1986a), questions were asked related to animal experiments. First people were asked what they thought about the relationship between animals and human beings; 49% said that humans have to live together with animals and to be prosperous together, 22% said that humans are a special being among animals, 15% said that humans are the same as animals, 5% said that humans can use animals however they like and 9% said "don't know". In a specific question on animal experiments; 66% said that they felt sorry but human welfare depended on animal experiments, 23% said humans should do as little experimentation as possible, 5% said that we should not do experiments on animals and 6% said they "don't know". In a May 1990 survey (N=7629, PMO 1990e) people were asked about their attitudes to animals in general. The major reason people had pets was because their family or themselves liked having them. When asked about euthanasia of stray cats and dogs, 23% said that they could not take the life of an animal, while 62% said they felt sorry but there was no alternative, 7% said it was natural because we cannot keep the strays and 8% said "don't know".
Despite the suggestion from the Prime Minister's Office surveys that about a quarter of the population are concerned about the ethics of animal experiments, there is still a lack of animal welfare guidelines in scientific research establishments in Japan. In most other industrialised countries there are statutory laws and guidelines which can mean the closure of laboratories if unethical experiments are conducted, but in Japan these are lacking. At a few establishments there are face-saving committees, but they are mainly concerned with satisfying some international publication requirements rather than assessing the ethics of animal research projects. This issue is not especially concerned with genetic engineering, but there is a pressing need for animal research guidelines.
There is reasonable concern about the danger of misuse, but not as high as expected. In a January 1990 survey (N=2239, PMO 1990c), people were asked whether they were worried about the danger of misuse of technology or mistakes being made; 77% said "yes", 7% said "don't know", and 16% said "no". In a 1987 survey, 83% said "yes", 6% said "don't know", and 11% said "no". There may be a trend towards less concern, however, there is still a very significant level of concern. There may be more concern about mistakes than misuse, and about the unknown results. Those respondents in this survey who cited insufficient controls may be concerned about either misuse or mistakes.
Some people wrote comments to Q7d saying that if there was sufficient
control there would be "no risk", but they did not circle
either response. Also some said there was no risk, but with a
qualification, as was seen in the responses to Q7b (see Table
4-4). Some of the comments in these responses included:
In the 1986 public opinion survey in the USA (OTA 1987) people were asked a related, but more general, question, "Have you heard about any potential dangers from genetically engineered products?". They were asked to cite one danger. Only 19% said that they had heard of a potential danger, and from a total of N=285 of these people, 35% did not state a reason (after saying yes), a similar proportion to that found in Q7d in Japan. Other responses were; difficult to control, spread 16%, health hazards and harm 12%, would create mutants 10%, environmental harm or contamination 7%, unforeseen consequences 7%, create new diseases 6%, cause cancer 6%, danger of consumption of products 3%, cause side effects 3%, create antibiotic resistant disease 3%, and other reasons were cited by 18%. It would be interesting to ask Q7 in the USA currently, and to collect the results. Nevertheless, the comparative results between New Zealand and Japan allow some East/West comparison. The finding that they generally have similar concerns, in addition to sharing some of the same hopes, suggests that there is much similarity in the ideas associated with genetic engineering among people of industrialised countries. This is not very surprising, given that scientific research is international, and many of the media stories are also internationally presented. There is little support for the idea that Japan has any special reasoning in this area, compared to New Zealanders or Americans.
In a recent report by the Japan Bioindustry Association (JBA 1991), they discussed the translation of the English word "risk" into Japanese. They claim that in Japanese, it may have more certainty associated with it, whereas the English understanding of "risk", is the "possibility of a hazard". Really, this is just playing with words. It may be unfortunate that people see a risk from genetic engineering, but it is common in English-speaking countries also, and among many scientists as well. In fact, in the answers to Q7d, the public and scientists are very similar in Japan. As discussed above, in section 4.2, the supporters of the use of genetic engineering in Japan think that with education there will be less opposition. These results should make them aware that even with education, people may see risks.
In the February 1991 survey by the Agency for the Environment (N=1363, EA 1992) people were asked to choose from a list of responses, the closest response to their ideas on several questions on biotechnology. It should be noted that the people answering this questionnaire had been given several pages of introductory notes to read before answering the questions, which may have affected their responses. The questionnaires were sent to a select group of people entrusted with monitoring changes in public opinion (91% responded), so the quantitative reliability of the whole survey as a measure of the whole population can be questioned. One could be suspicious of the Agency for the Environment motives because they have been attempting unsuccessfully to introduce legislation to control the release of GMOs, which is discussed in chapter 8, and they had the results of the survey in April 1991 but did not release the results (32 pages total including 35 tables and figures) until March 1992.
One question was on the "safety of genetic manipulation" 14% chose "the organism may cause disease and might infect people so it has a bad health effect", 38% chose "such an organism may cause adverse ecological effects if released into the environment", 15% chose "I'm worried because I don't know the context", 8% chose "I'm already worried to make a new thing", 3% chose "because this technology is not dangerous I'm not worried", 17% chose "it is a very useful technology and I think that they consider the environmental effect, so I'm not worried", 3% chose "don't know", and 1% said something else. This makes a total of 78% worried about the safety of genetic engineering, which we can compare to the results of their question on the usefulness of genetic engineering in which 66% saw benefits and 8% saw environmental risks outweighing any benefits (page 60). Of the people that saw benefits of genetic engineering by making new organisms and medicines, 68% saw risks, and of those who saw benefits from genetic engineering because it is a new technology, 63% saw risks. It is obvious that people have mixed emotions, and one can imagine people using the results of surveys however they like. The media coverage of that survey was to report the negative results, with newspaper releases reporting that the survey found that 75% of the respondents had concern about the possible adverse effects of biotechnology (in fact the question was "genetic engineering") on the environment and health. This is consistent with the results of our survey, but both the Agency for the Environment and this survey also showed that a similar proportion of people perceive benefits, which the media didn't mention. In fact, almost every technology has a risk, and the large number of respondents who saw risks and benefits together show that many people have this feeling. Many people in both countries thought that genetic manipulation involves both possible benefits and hazards. This is represented schematically in Figure 4-6. In all groups, many people saw both benefits and risks, especially for genetic manipulation of human cells.
It is natural to see risks from the use of genetic manipulation, though there may be nothing more dangerous about genetic engineering than traditional agriculture. Actually, it may have the potential to be safer, because traits can be precisely selected. However, we must notice the risks. We must take some risks when we drive a car, ride a train, or eat raw fish, but many will do these actions because it is better than the alternative, of not using these things. We must just ensure that safety standards are maintained. It is good if concern about genetic manipulation makes us safer in the use of any technology, many of the practices we accept today may have more risk, and this growing concern will make us look freshly at practices we have accepted without thinking. Rather than to attempt to suppress feelings of risk, we should value this, and learn to make decisions balancing the risks and benefits of all alternatives.
Another measure of the way people balance benefits and risks is to look at the correlation between responses to Q7b on the acceptability of genetic manipulation, with responses to Q7c (benefits) and Q7d (risks). Such a comparison is presented in Figure 4-7. The comparative public results between Japan and New Zealand are presented. In Japan, people who said that genetic manipulation of plants was acceptable saw many benefits, while some also saw it as presenting no risk. In the case of microbes, the idea that it presents no risk was comparatively more important than the reason it will provide benefits, than in the case of plants. There are significant correlations (P>0.001) in the association of acceptability with benefit and with no risk, in all samples.
There was a general trend for people who were more aware of genetic engineering (Q5a) to be more accepting of genetic manipulation (Q7b), and to see more benefits from it (Q7c). This was especially true of the public and scientists (Table 4-8).
In a general way the risks of science and technology has also been touched on in the Japanese public opinion surveys in which respondents must respond to a list of multiple options. For example in 1986 (N=2376, PMO 1986b), people were asked what were the minus sides of science and technology. 33% said that although life was more convenient, human agility and ability to manage daily life was decreasing, 29% said that there was a danger of misuse or mistakes, 22% said that the environment becomes worse and less stable, and 21% said that increased information led to a loss of the spiritual side of life. In the Nikkei (1983) survey of business people, people were asked whether they had more hope or worry about the future of biotechnology. 65% said more hope, 24% said more worry, and 10% said they cannot say. With increasing knowledge there was increasing concern about biotechnology. They were then asked to say whether they shared any reasons for concern from a list; 75% agreed with ecological reasons, 55% had ethical concerns, 46% for the reason of control over human personality, 36% because of new diseases, 30% because of biowarfare, 16% for "society becomes inhuman", 14% said viruses will escape, and 10% said cloning. They also asked attitudes to intervention in nature. 11% said it was best to follow nature, 84% said it was best to use nature, 1% said it was best to conquer nature and 4% couldn't say. In another question they asked people, presumably supposedly pragmatic Japanese businessmen, whether they thought life was material; 6% said life was material and not mysterious, 83% said that we cannot deny some spiritual mystery and 11% said that life was mysterious and nothing is material. Even in what is considered to be a relatively irreligious country like Japan, many people do see a spiritual side to life, and in Q7 and Q8 this is seen in the number of respondents who saw genetic manipulation as unnatural, profanity to God, or unethical. Moreover, many scientists also gave these reasons. We need to accept these feelings when introducing new technology, and it is unhelpful for some scientists to reject these feelings as irrational, rather they need to accommodate such feelings into the debate.
In 1990 a survey of scientists involved in recombinant DNA research in the USA was conducted (N=430, Rabino 1991). 44% thought that the public attention about genetic engineering had been beneficial and 24% thought it had been harmful, though industry scientists had a more negative impression than university scientists. Interestingly, 82% said that they felt that the USA might lose its competitive edge in genetic engineering because of controversy and litigation.
Figure 4-7 Correlation of acceptability of genetic manipulation
with perception of risks and benefits
The number of respondents are indicated in Tables 4-2, 4-4. New Zealand data from Couchman & Fink-Jensen (1990).
Table 4-8 Relationship between the awareness of genetic engineering (Q5a) and perceptions of genetic manipulation (Q7)
Q5a: a = not heard b = heard only c = can explain
|Q7b: % who said genetic manipulation was unacceptable|
|Q7c: % who said there were benefits for Japan from genetic manipulation|
|Q7d: % who said there were risks to Japan from genetic manipulation|
4.5. Attitudes to Genetic Engineering Facilities in Japan
The major instances of public protests over genetic engineering in Japan have centred on opposition to specific facilities, notably a P4 level containment facility in Tsukuba, and a P3 level containment facility in Shinjuku, Tokyo. There has also been concern at the Osaka Bioscience Institute and Protein Engineering Research Centre close to Osaka in 1987. The designations, P3, P4, refer to a system of protection levels (P1-4) which were adopted by the NIH in the USA. The experiments with the highest risk are performed at the highest level of security, but very few P4 level experiments have been performed. P4 level means total isolation from the environment and laboratory workers. Such a level of isolation is seldom required, and in fact, the facility in Tsukuba has only been used during one period for two experiments. For the last couple of years it has been empty, because it has not been required. Lower levels of protection are judged sufficient, and internationally the protection levels for research involving genetic engineering have been lowering. More stringent protection facilities are used for some medical studies of pathogens.
The P4 facility is operated by the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN), in Tsukuba city area. The first protests were organised in late 1980 when RIKEN in Wako city, the main research facility, made plans to build a P4 laboratory. This laboratory was later built in a new institute in Tsukuba. In order to attempt to understand more of the issues of the P4 facility problem in Tsukuba, I attended a meeting of the local protestors against the facility in October 1991, and spoke to one of the chief scientists of RIKEN (Amanuma 1992). The protesters continue to be involved in local court cases, since April 1988. Although the earlier public pressure failed to prevent the construction of the facility, perhaps the public pressure led to the establishment of a committee which includes public members. From the first meeting of the safety committee of RIKEN in Tsukuba in September 1985 there have been public members involved, the only committee concerned about biotechnology safety in Japan to include public members. In that sense the protest could have been considered effective. However, at the time of writing a court case is still in process asking for compensation to the residents, though in the absence of any harm (especially since the P4 facility is not being used) one can wonder what the compensation is for. Additionally, this questionnaire was distributed to a number of residents of the area around the laboratory, but no significant difference in response was detected from the general replies. In the responses to Q7 by Tsukuba residents in general, the acceptability was similar to throughout Japan but somewhat more respondents in the Tsukuba area saw both benefits and risks from genetic manipulation.
The major concern of the protestors appeared to be lack of public knowledge about what was happening at the facility. However, the research is made public knowledge. There is a safety committee of 11 members to examine all research involving genetic engineering experiments being performed at all protection levels in RIKEN in Tsukuba, and it includes four members representing Tsukuba city. They meet three times every two years, and after the meetings an outline of the proposed research is made available to the public. Also, once or twice a year RIKEN organises an on-site meeting, inviting local residents and city officials. There are also some local residents who work at RIKEN.
The suspicion among the protestors was heightened by the failure to publish the results of the two experiments conducted at the P4 laboratory. The experiments involved tests on the transfer of genes using retroviruses, to test whether the disabled virus could reacquire the original characteristics, and whether the preparation could be maintained free of helper viruses (which are required for helping the disabled virus to reproduce). The results were that only disabled viruses could be detected. However, similar results had been published (Miller et al. 1986), so the results were not published. It too two and a half years to complete the experiment, partly due to a long delay in initiation because the experiments required approval at various levels, including RIKEN and STA committees. In conclusion, it appears that the protestors should not be concerned about the research being performed at RIKEN, perhaps they should divert their attention to pushing for public involvement in the other committees concerning biotechnology research in Japan. This question will be discussed in section 8.4.
Perhaps of more concern is the National Institutes of Health viral research laboratory in Shinjuku, which continues to receive protests. The concern is not just over genetic engineering, but the general medical studies on pathogenic organisms which are of greater risk than most types of genetic engineering. The laboratory is in the centre of a metropolitan area, located next to a hospital so that it has easy access for material. However, many point out that there would be lower risk to human health if the facility was located in a less populated area. However, it is not uncommon internationally to place such facilities in population centres because of convenience. Public concern may be eased by public notification of details of the research work, and public involvement on committees that oversee the research. This would ensure that sufficient safety standards are maintained, and that people are aware of what these standards are.
In a Nikkei (1983) survey, business people were asked their attitudes to a genetic engineering facility being built in their neighbourhood. 16% would agree with it, 59% would agree providing their were strict controls, 14% would disapprove if asked, 1% would protest about it and 10% said they would have no interest. In the February 1991 survey by the Agency for the Environment (N=1363, EA 1992) people were asked to chose from a list of responses, the closest response to their ideas on the construction of a facility using genetic engineering in their neighbourhood. They were told that the experiments would be enclosed and already such experiments had been conducted. 55% were not against it, 18% because it was useful, 2.5% because it was safe, 29% because the country was ensuring it's safety, and 5% would not be against if it was not too close. 32% were against construction, 16% because they were somehow worried, 15% because there was no guarantee of containment and 1.4% were against the experiments themselves. 8% said "don't know" and 4% said something else. The people who had said that they were against (32%, N=563), were then asked under what conditions they would accept construction of the facility. Only 6% said that they would be against under any conditions, 25% said they would accept if the country had better guidelines on safety than current ones, 6% said they would accept if the company explains properly, 52% said they would accept if they could be confident of the safety, and 4% said something else and 3% didn't answer. From this result, it appears that most people would not be against the construction of a genetic engineering facility if they were surer of its safety.
The following question they asked concerned the acceptance of an environmental release of a genetically engineered microorganism. 7.4% chose "because it is promoting a useful technology I am not against it", 2.9% chose "because the USA or other countries release these we should also do them", 2.2% chose "originally this is not a dangerous organism, so I'm not against release experiments", 42.6% chose "if they make and follow safety rules it's OK", 17.5% chose "because they release to the environment, if researcher's check it's safety its OK", 5.8% chose "because I don't know what kind of experiment is done, I'm somehow against it", 9.8% chose "if it's released to the environment, because of the possibility of bad influence to the environment I'm against it", 4.8% chose "genetically engineered microorganisms are new things so I'm against", 4.9% said "don't know" and 1% said something else. Basically, 73% were in favour of the release and 20% were against it. Only 4.7% of the people in Japan said they "knew something" about field spraying of genetically engineered microorganisms. We can compare these with the results of a question asked in the USA (OTA 1987), where, when asked about a field release test of a genetically engineered bacteria to make strawberries resistant to frost in the local area; 53% said that they would be in favour, 32% were opposed and 14% could not say. In the USA there was more opposition to the release, though opinions may have changed. As will be discussed in the following section, in both countries there is a relatively low level of general opposition and high public support for specific environmental applications, seen in the results to Q19.
Questions about specific applications of genetic engineering were
asked, using a similar question (Q19) to that used in the USA
(OTA 1987). Because the meaning of the normal Japanese characters
for pesticide is agricultural chemical, which is not what GMOs
will be used for, an alternative character set was used. However,
from the results (see Table 4-9) it is apparent that this may
be still associated with the bad connotations implied by agricultural
chemicals, as is the word "pesticide" in English.
Q19 gave specific environmental applications of genetic engineering, and given no human risk, and little environmental risk, people were asked about their opinion. In Japan there has only been one environmental release of a GMO, and considering that internationally there have been nearly 500 releases and some GMOs and products made from GMOs are commercially available for environmental use in other countries, the Japanese authorities have been over cautious about release of GMOs.
The results are shown in Table 4-9. There was clear approval for environmental release of disease or frost resistant crops, with less approval for bacteria to help fight oil spills. There was lower acceptance of developing better pesticides, though still a majority of all groups supported this. There was rejection of the idea of making big game fish, and this was the largest difference to the results obtained in the USA. A schematic representation of the comparative results is in Figure 4-8.
These survey results are a clear mandate for further research to develop some products involving GMOs, and to have further field releases of new varieties of plants to test their performance, prior to farmer's use. We need to consider the ecological impact of any new organism or variety that we introduce to the environment, and there are approaches available to do this (Tiedje et al. 1989, HMG 1991).
The use of genetic engineering to make big game fish could be seen as an example of enhancement genetic engineering. The results of earlier Japanese public surveys also show rejection of some types of enhancement engineering (Joyce 1988). Only 20% of Japanese agreed with "studies which might enable most people to live to be 100 or more", whereas 70% of Americans agreed. Only one third of Japanese agreed with studies to alter the weather, whereas two thirds of Americans did. Two thirds of Japanese would support a ban on creating new forms of life, but 42% of Americans would. This is not to say that Japanese value leaving nature as it is more than Americans, but it is an area worthy of further research.
Related to this question, is the topic how much do people value the environment and what for. In a June 1991 survey (N=2321, PMO 1991c), people were asked what they expect from watching nature (green), and the results were compared to a June 1983 survey. The reasons which people agreed with were; 74% said a place to relax, 48% said a place for small birds and animals to live (28% in 1983), 43% said a rest place for humans (40% in 1983), 38% said to have a good walk in the forest (29% in 1983), 38% said a place to stop natural accidents (30% in 1983), 21% said for nice scenery (17% in 1983), 9% said a place to produce mushrooms (6% in 1983) and 9% said to produce wood (9% in 1983). These results suggest that there is concern about the ecological value of nature, to protect animal life, with surprisingly little worth seen in forestry. Considering the great timber imports from tropical regions to Japan, and the link to deforestation, the awareness of nature as a source of timber should be higher in Japan, though Japanese people may not be aware of the deforestation that they indirectly cause in other countries. In the same Japanese survey, the people who said that they were concerned about disappearing nature were asked why they were not satisfied (N=603), 51% said that big institutes were destroying green, 41% said that they did not have access to green, 35% said that it was artificial green and 25% said that there was a lack of variety. From these results it appears that Japanese find several reasons for having green, including ecological ones. This is consistent with the results to the comments cited in Q7b and Q7d, about the risk of ecological harm, and interference with nature. It is also interesting that 35% of those who said that they were not satisfied with green said it was because it was artificial, and 25% said because it lacked variety. In some urban environments many trees are planted, but many people still prefer "real" nature to "artificial" nature. In the future when genetically engineered ornamental plants and trees have been made, these people may resist their use, though the majority of people like nice ornamental plants and some people in Q7c cited it as an advantage from plant genetic manipulation.
Q16f also considered the use of genetic engineering as alternatives to pesticides, and 49% of the public agreed that genetically modified plants and animals would help Japanese agriculture become less dependent upon pesticides, while 49% of teachers and 56% of scientists agreed with this (Table 4-9). 71% of the company scientists agreed with this statement. Only 7% of scientists and the public disagreed with this, while 13% of teachers disagreed. This question statement is a major argument of those calling for the development of genetic engineering in agriculture, and the result suggests that it is supported by a majority of people, though still 43% of the public are not sure about how they feel. More New Zealanders agreed with this statement than Japanese (Figure 4-9).
The way that genetic engineering is being used to introduce pest resistance to plants is to transfer genes to selectively kill insect pests into plants. The research has been conducted on many species of plants, with success, especially transferring the gene encoding the insecticidal protein of the bacteria Bacillus thuriengensis. This protein selectively kills certain insects, while other insects are not killed. When chemical insecticides are used, all insects may die, so this method is an advantage. The protein is not toxic to other animals, so it is also much safer than chemicals. This bacteria has been used for many decades already to kill certain insects, but genetic engineering can transfer the gene to the plant so that we do not need to spray the protein onto crops. Also, if the gene is in the plant the protein may be always produced (or selectively produced at the time when pest resistance is required), so the plant is always resistant to insects. Like any pesticide, some pest insects will develop resistance to the protein, and there are a few cases where they already have (Gibbons 1991), so that good agricultural management schemes should be used. In the USA an independent national advisory board may be established to recommend research on this biopesticide and monitor its use. Farmers will have to rely on several pesticides, and also grow some plants without the gene for the insecticidal protein in their fields, which lowers the rate that pests develop resistance to the protein (Anderson 1992a). There are many other approaches that have been used to biological pest control and the use of genetic engineering, see Macer (1990).
In a 1991 European survey, of 12,800 people (MacKenzie 1991), people were asked about whether they supported a list of specific applications of genetic engineering. More than 50% supported research to make farm animals disease resistant and to grow faster. There was less support for using animals to develop "life-saving drugs or to study human disease", with one third supporting it but 20% saying that it was morally wrong. Only 13% said that research justified animal suffering. 95% approved of using bacteria to "eat" oil-slicks, but 58% said they thought that it was risky. 65% approved of research to improve food and drink quality, but 72% said that it was risky.
As found in the USA in the OTA (1987) survey of public opinion, Japanese also appear to give more support to specific applications of genetic engineering than to general questions. This may represent a need to know the reasons for doing something, rather than blind support and trust of researchers. This discretion is an encouraging sign, but many factors may influence people's opinion. Nevertheless, if researchers plan to conduct some test of GMOs, they will generally find more support if they explain what it is intended for. If public support declines as a result of more truthful explanatory information, then we can doubt whether such a test is worthwhile at all. Already people can see benefits in disease resistant plants and think it is worth developing them, providing there are negligible risks to humans and the environment. Another area that may be supported by the public is release of vaccines made by genetic engineering. An example of this is the successful large scale releases of rabies vaccine used to immunise foxes in Belgium since 1989 (Brochier et al. 1991).
Frost resistant crops
More effective pesticides
Bacteria to clean up oil spills
Disease resistant crops
Larger game fish
Q16f: Genetically modified plants and animals will help Japanese agriculture become less dependent on chemical pesticides?Pesticides GMO Agriculture
Figure 4-8 Attitudes to environmental release of GMOs
Approval by the different samples in Japan (see Table 4-8)
Figure 4-9 Perception of environmental benefits from applications of genetic engineering in agriculture (Q16f) in Japan and New Zealand
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