Attitudes of the Public and Scientists to Biotechnology in Japan at the start of 2000

- Mary Ann Chen Ng, Chika Takeda, Tomoyuki Watanabe

& Darryl Macer*

*Contact: Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Tsukuba,

Tsukuba Science City 305-8572, Japan

Email: asianbioethics@yahoo.co.nz

Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 10 (2000), 106-113.
Abstract

This survey on biotechnology and bioethics was carried out on national random samples of the public and scientists in November 2000-January 2000 throughout Japan, and attendees at the Novartis Life Science Forum held on 29 September, 1999 in Tokyo. The sample size was 297, 370, and 74 respectively. While there is better awareness of GMOs in 2000 compared to 1991; the trend shows an increase in the perceived risks of GMOs followed by growing resistance in Japan. While a majority of persons believed genetic engineering would make life better over the next twenty years (57%), the proportion of respondents who thought genetic engineering would make life worse over the next twenty years doubled from 1997 to 2000 (from 12% to 25%). Respondents were asked whether they had heard about applications in several areas and the order of familiarity (high to low) was: pest-resistant crops, human genes in bacteria, mouse to develop cancer, food and drinks, pigs with human hearts and pre-implantation diagnosis. A divide of opinion can be seen when the results on benefit, risk and moral acceptability of applications of biotechnology by the public are compared to the forum and scientist samples.

A significant change in the acceptance of the public occurred in 2000 where only 22% agreed on the moral acceptability of GM food compared to 41% in 1997. In 2000 fewer people said they are willing (20%) to buy genetically modified fruits that taste better compared to 1997 (36%). The results show less public support for use of gene therapy than 1993 and twice as many scientists rejected gene therapy than they did in 1991.

When asked whom is best placed to regulate modern biotechnology, the respondents were overwhelmingly in favor of international regulatory bodies, such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization (72%), rather than national bodies. The comparison between scientists and public is interesting, however the more enthusastic sample were participants from the Novartis Life Science Forum with its mixed occupations.

Introduction

The attitudes that people have toward biotechnology are basic to the introduction of new applications of biotechnology in agriculture and medicine. Since 1991, public opinion surveys have been conducted in Japan and other Asian and Pacific countries by researchers, including Macer (P91 (public) and S91 (scientists) - Macer 1992; P93 - Macer 1994a; P97 - Macer et al. 1997). Other surveys include those of Hoban (1997). This paper reports the results of a survey conducted at the end of 2000 and beginning of the year 2000 in Japan. The preliminary results were announced at the FAO/WHO/ILSI Symposium on biotechnology on 13 March, 2000 in Chiba, Japan. These surveys allow trends to be examined. As a result of these surveys, it can be determined whether technology, and the associated debates, have altered public opinions.

Sampling

This survey on biotechnology and bioethics was carried out on national random samples of the public and scientists in November 2000-January 2000, and attendees at the Novartis Life Science Forum held on 29 September, 1999 in Tokyo. The sample size was 297, 370, and 74 respectively. The public sample (P2000) was obtained by choosing 3000 random houses in representative areas across Japan, and dropping the survey in an anonymous cover envelope into the letterbox. The Science Forum sample (F99) was obtained from a questionnaire included in the information pack of attendees at the Novartis Life Science Forum, held on 29 September 1999 in Tokyo, on the subject of the benefits and risks of genetically recombinant organisms. The scientists sample (S2000) was obtained by sending the questionnaire to 1480 scientists, randomly selected from lists of Japanese researchers. Public and scientist surveys were sent with stamped return envelopes, and responses were obtained from 34 and 44 of the 47 prefectures of Japan, respectively.

A brief summary of the sample characteristics of surveys is in Table 1. The response rates were low and we would calculate a sampling error of around plus or minus 5%. The occupation of the public respondents covered all major sectors (Table 2), and the sample was gender balanced. The scientist samples (1991, 2000) were all researchers.

Table 2: Occupation of respondents

%

P91

P93

P97

P2000

F99

Housewife

19.6

15.9

16.8

11.0

0

Retired

6.2

8.7

7.2

10.6

1.4

Farmer

1.1

1.2

2.2

0.4

0

Teacher

2.2

6.4

2.5

7.4

0

Government

6.9

14.8

10.4

7.8

4.1

Company

21.4

21.2

20.7

23.4

27.4

University/research

2.2

1.8

1.2

4.3

19.2

Engineer

1.1

1.5

1.5

0.7

0

Medical

2.9

1.8

1.7

3.2

4.1

Student

12.9

12.0

11.6

14.9

13.7

Administrator

2.0

0.3

1.7

0.4

5.5

Self-employed

3.6

4.1

5.7

0.4

2.7

Arts

0.9

0

0

0.0

1.4

Social work

0.4

0

1.5

0.4

4.1

Part-time

0

0

3.7

2.2

0

Unemployed

0.5

0

1.7

2.8

0

Others

0.9

9.0

1.2

0.7

0

Not stated

15.2

1.4

8.6

8.9

12.3

Table 1: Sample characteristics

%

P91

P93

P97

P2000

S91

S2000

F99

N

551

352

405

297

555

370

74

Response

26

23

44

12

56

23

18

Time

7/91+

3/93+

1/97+

11/99+

10/91+

11/99+

9/99

Male

53

52

52.4

62.2

90.2

89.2

76.7

Female

47

48

47.6

37.8

9.8

10.8

23.3

Rural

-

27

30.3

27.5

-

83.5

4.2

Urban

-

73

69.7

72.5

-

16.5

95.8

Age
Mean(yr)

39.8

41.7

41.0

44.5

47.1

50

44.6

<20

4

3

6.2

4.9

0.0

0

2.8

<30

24

21

23.7

15.1

9.3

1.7

21.1

<40

23

26

17.5

21.8

18.3

13.9

12.7

<50

25

19

23.7

19.4

31.5

31.5

21.1

<60

12

14

14.3

20.4

30.5

38.6

25.4

>60

12

17

11.4

18.3

10.4

14.2

16.9

Marital Status
Single

29

29

31

25.5

12.4

6.1

23.6

Married

66

66

66.4

71.4

86.1

92.5

72.2

Children
None

35

40

39.9

34.8

17.7

15.1

35.2

Education
High school

37.0

37.0

40.4

27.3

3.4

.3

2.8

2-year college

22.0

19.0

22

14.5

5.8

1.1

5.6

Graduate

31.0

31.0

32.9

40.1

38.0

15.6

49.3

Postgraduate

7.0

10.0

3.4

15.6

49.4

80

39.4

Religion
None

-

39.0

48.2

55.1

49.6

60.3

Buddhism

-

47.0

40.6

34.1

39.3

27.9

Christian

-

8.0

6.7

2.8

4.6

5.9

How important is religion?
Very

-

10.0

-

6.9

6.2

5.6

Some

-

33.0

-

25.3

24.3

32.4

Not too

-

40.0

-

39.1

45.2

33.8

Not at all

-

17.0

-

28.7

24.3

28.3

Interest in Science and Technology

The first question aimed to measure the level of interest in science and technology (Table 3). The results reveal a significantly higher degree of interest in science and technology (P< 0.01) among the scientists, and forum participants than the public. On the five-point scale, more than 61% of scientists indicated they were extremely interested, with 25% saying they were very interested. The forum participants were also extremely interested, and both samples were similar to the 1991 scientist sample (Macer 1992). The 2000 public sample was similar to the 1991 and 1993 samples (Macer 1994).

Table 3: Comparison of the Levels of Interest in Science and Technology

Q1. Which of these statements best describes your interest in science and technology?

%

P91

P93

P2000

F99

S91

S2000

Extremely Interested

14.3

11.5

24.9

56.8

57.6

61.1

Very Interested

15.4

27.6

21.7

24.3

23.1

25.0

Interested

44.8

43.1

37.4

18.9

15.1

11.9

Not very interested

23.9

16.7

13.5

0.0

3.6

1.4

Not at all interested

1.6

1.1

2.5

0.0

0.6

0.6


Perceptions of Benefits of Developments in Science and Technology

While the main aim of the survey was to find out the attitudes of the public towards biotechnology and genetic engineering, this is related to the attitudes people have towards science and technology in general. Q2 reads, "Science and Technology change the way we live. Following is a list of areas in which new technologies are currently developing. For each of these areas, do you think it will improve our way of life in the next 20 years, it will have no effect, or will it make things worse? " The results are shown in Table 4. As can be seen from Table 4, genetic engineering was perceived to improve the quality of life more by scientists (S2000 72%, F99 82%), than by the public (P2000 59%, P97 54%). The 1997 telephone survey results and the 2000 mail response survey results found the same proportion of optimism, however, there were more don't know responses and more who considered that genetic engineering (P2000 24%, P97 12%) or biotechnology (P2000 15%, P97 12%) would make life worse. Biotechnology was perceived to be beneficial by more persons than genetic engineering, in all samples, and more persons thought genetic engineering would be harmful than they did for biotechnology. The two developments, which were rated more highly as beneficial, were computers and information technology, and telecommunications. Interestingly, however, the scientists viewed biotechnology more similar to telecommunications than did the public.

Table 4: Comparison of Attitudes of Respondents towards Five Areas of Science and Technology

%

Computers and IT

Biotechnology

Genetic Engineering

Telecommunications

Space Exploration

P97

P2000

F99

S2000

P97

P2000

F99

S2000

P97

P2000

F99

S2000

P97

P2000

F99

S2000

P97

P2000

F99

S2000

Will Improve

77.0

81.6

91.8

86.9

62.0

66.3

84.7

77

54.0

58.6

81.7

72.1

76.0

77.2

84.9

80.9

54.0

63.7

54.2

50

No Effect

4.0

3.8

1.4

1.1

4.0

4.5

2.8

3.6

7.0

2.4

2.8

3

13.0

10.5

4.1

8.7

17.0

19.3

22.2

23.9

Make Worse

9.0

8.5

4.1

4.6

12.0

15.1

0.0

7.7

12.0

23.6

1.4

12.6

5.0

7.8

8.2

3.8

6.0

5.8

1.4

5.8

Don't Know

10.0

6.1

2.7

7.4

22.0

14.1

12.5

11.8

27.0

15.4

14.1

12.3

6.1

4.4

2.7

6.6

23.0

11.2

22.2

20.3

No Answer

2.0

0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0

0.0

0.0

0.5

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.5

0.0

0.0

0.0

Images of Biotechnology

The next question was deliberately inserted before examples of biotechnology were given to seek how much respondents knew about biotechnology. The ideas found in the answers to the open question (Q3) "What comes to mind when you think about modern biotechnology in a broad sense, that is, including genetic engineering?, " were placed in up to three categories following the method of Macer (1992,1994,1997). These are presented in Table 5. Most of the public respondents gave specific definitions and examples. The pomato was cited by 8% of the respondents in Japan in 1997, being the development of biotechnology that was most familiar. In 2000 however, only 1% mentioned the pomato, with the most common specific examples being Dolly the cloned sheep, or genetically modified food. The open comments are translated and listed in Appendix 1 (on-line).

It is interesting to note that there were quite a few who associated the term with agricultural improvement of crops; mainly GMOs. The results of the 1997 survey also reflect this trend. Most respondents also had optimistic views about biotechnology. There were fewer respondents who expressed concerns as opposed to those who had positive views. The major concerns expressed were fear of unknown, going against nature and environmental destruction. Many expressed both optimism and pessimism, saying that control was needed.

Table 5: Images of Biotechnology of the Respondents of the 1997 and 2000 Bioethics and Biotechnology Survey in Japan

Q3. You've just indicated to what degree you think various new technologies will change the way we live. What comes to mind when you think about modern biotechnology in a broad sense, that is, including genetic engineering?

%

P97

P2000

F99

S2000

Food

5

17

19

9

Medicine

11

13

15

17

Cloning and IVF

7

25

7

10

Gene tests

1

3

4

2

Gene therapy

3

11

8

12

Increase variety

20

11

15

15

Genes/genetic eng.

11

16

7

21

GM animals

4

3

5

5

GM crops

9

16

15

8

Specific example

6

5

8

8

Industry

2

2

10

7

Tech/scien. progress

6

9

24

21

Environment

3

3

10

2

Ethics

2

9

8

4

Benefits and Risks

3

9

10

6

Against nature

4

7

5

3

Other

2

6

11

5

Not stated

21

9

3

7

Don't know

11

1

0

1


Specific Applications of Biotechnology

Attitudes to a series of six specific applications of biotechnology were examined (Q7). Respondents were asked whether they had heard about applications in food and drinks, pest-resistant crops, human genes in bacteria, mouse to develop cancer, pigs with human hearts and pre-implantation diagnosis. Respondents were also asked about the benefits, risks, and acceptability of the applications. The results of each option and the means of four point scales of agreement are shown in Table 6, with comparison to Macer et al. (1997). The questions were the same as those used in Eurobarometer 1996/1997.

The most familiar application was pest resistant crops, with an increase of 22% in the proportion of the public who had heard of them in 2000 compared to 1997. Overall, more people had heard of every development than the 1997 sample. In the 2000 survey unlike the 1997 survey, the respondents were asked to give reasons for the answers to questions 7bcde (see Table 6). Reasons will be described elsewhere.

The most acceptable application for all samples was "introducing human genes into bacteria to produce medicines and vaccines" (Q7.3). The least acceptable were preimplantation diagnosis (Q7.5) and xenotransplantation (Q 7.6). The same result was found for the 1997 public sample (Macer et al. 1997).

Genetically modified food and drinks (Q7.1) were less accepted by the public and scientists than participants of the forum who rated this application as the second most acceptable. A significant change in the acceptance of the public occurred in 2000 where only 31% agreed on the moral acceptability of GM food compared to 45% in 1997. This decreasing trend in acceptability can also be seen in the other applications, for example from 52% to 33% in the case of pest-resistant crops. More of the public disagreed with the acceptability of all applications compared to 1997. At the same time, more people are aware of the various applications of biotechnology than they were in 1997.

In order to understand whether the people differentiate between the various applications of genetic engineering in terms of perceived benefits and risks, respondents were asked whether each application was useful to society (Q7b) and how much risk they perceived (Q7c). High levels of benefit were perceived for medical applications such as introducing human genes into bacteria to produce medicines and vaccines and developing genetically modified animals for medical studies. Both 1997 and 2000 data on the public sample show that the highest level of perceived benefit was for animals used for medical studies followed by modified bacteria used for producing medicine. The lowest level of perceived benefit for all samples was for xenotransplantation.

Table 5

%

Food and Drinks

Pest resistant crops

Human genes in bacteria

Mouse to develop cancer

Pigs with human hearts

Preimplantation diagnosis

P97 P2000 F99 S2000 P97 P2000 F99 S2000 P97 P2000 F99 S2000 P97 P2000 F99 S2000 P97 P2000 F99 S2000 P97 P2000 F99 S2000
a. Have you heard of this application?
Yes

56.6

69.2

90.4

91.5

64.8

87.4

94.4

98.1

31.7

59

86.3

92.6

62.6

80.6

91.8

92.8

42.6

66.8

84.9

88.5

35.8

58.4

84.5

90.7

No

36.4

30.8

9.6

8.5

29.0

12.6

5.6

1.9

60.1

40.7

13.7

7.4

32.9

19.4

8.2

6.9

55.9

33.2

15.1

11.5

56.5

41.2

15.5

8.8

DK

7.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

6.2

0.0

0.0

0.0

8.2

.3

0.0

0.0

4.5

0.0

0.0

0.3

5.5

0.0

0.0

0.0

7.7

0.4

0.0

0.6

b. How useful do you find this application is for society?
Definitely agree

14.9

15.2

34.2

21.8

21.8

17.5

33.8

22.8

33.2

29.9

58.9

50.3

27.4

28

55.6

43.1

16.2

13.7

28.2

20.6

24.9

19.5

41.2

25.6

Agree

43.7

36.6

42.5

40.2

49.3

33.3

47.9

37

40.6

35.7

37.0

35.1

48.3

43.4

34.7

40.6

35.8

27.7

33.8

31.2

37.6

28.5

39.7

41.1

Disagree

22.3

25.7

12.3

20.1

15.6

24.4

8.5

16.4

10.5

12.9

0.0

6.1

10.7

13.6

4.2

7

20.9

24.9

23.9

25.6

12.4

20.6

11.8

17.2

Definitely disagree

5.5

11.3

4.1

13.2

3.2

15.1

2.8

15.6

1.5

7.1

1.4

4.7

3.7

5.9

2.8

4.5

9.5

19.3

5.6

17.8

4.7

13

1.5

7.5

DK

13.6

11.3

6.8

4.7

10.1

9.6

7.0

8.1

14.2

14.3

2.7

3.9

10.0

9.1

2.8

4.8

17.6

14.4

8.5

4.7

20.3

18.5

5.9

8.6

c. How risky do you think this application is for society?
Definitely agree

14.6

18.4

4.2

14.6

12.7

21.5

7.0

17.3

12.2

16.6

10.4

12.2

16.2

16.5

10.0

12.2

26.1

25.9

23.9

22

14.7

23

9.2

15.6

Agree

33.7

30.9

18.1

26.5

32.8

29.2

21.1

31.8

27.7

20.2

16.4

19.2

29.7

22.2

14.3

17.4

32.8

23.4

19.4

22.3

23.6

26.4

26.2

35.3

Disagree

30.0

26.2

43.1

31.2

29.8

20.8

39.4

26.6

30.4

27.8

26.9

31.1

31.4

30.1

34.3

38

18.2

19.8

28.4

31

29.6

19

27.7

25.4

Definitely disagree

2.5

8.9

19.4

12

6.5

8.5

18.3

10.4

4.2

10.8

32.8

27.6

6.7

12.5

28.6

21.7

3.7

7.6

9.0

12.2

10.2

8.9

26.2

13.2

DK

19.5

15.6

15.3

15.7

18.3

20.1

14.1

13.9

25.4

24.5

13.4

9.9

16.0

18.6

12.9

10.7

19.1

23.4

19.4

12.2

21.8

22.7

10.8

10.5

d. How morally acceptable do you think this application is?
Definitely agree

4.2

8.5

8.6

14.7

9.9

9.3

15.9

13.5

11.5

16.2

36.8

31.1

10.4

11.1

26.1

17.4

5.5

7.3

7.4

9.7

14.7

8.3

25.4

11.6

Agree

40.9

22.6

35.7

33.5

42.4

23.9

37.7

32.9

44.4

28.4

38.2

40.1

32.6

27.9

30.4

45.6

18.2

16.4

25.0

27.4

31.1

23.3

27.0

36.1

Disagree

29.8

30.7

30.0

22.5

25.1

26.1

24.6

21.8

20.7

23.2

4.4

9.9

30.1

25.7

15.9

18.3

39.3

24

27.9

23.6

22.4

27.1

19.0

23.9

Definitely disagree

6.7

16.3

8.6

12.9

5.0

16.4

8.7

14.7

4.5

9.6

5.9

8.4

10.4

13.9

15.9

6.9

23.1

28.7

17.6

20.6

9.5

16.2

12.7

11.6

DK

18.4

22.0

17.1

16.5

17.6

24.0

13.0

17.1

18.9

22.5

14.7

10.5

16.4

21.4

11.6

11.7

13.9

23.6

22.1

18.6

22.3

25.2

15.9

16.8

e. All in all this application should encouraged?
Definitely agree

18.6

10.6

29.6

19.1

23.1

11.7

27.5

20.2

28.2

22.1

48.5

42.2

22.9

16.5

47.8

32.1

14.0

11

20.9

18.4

23.7

12.3

32.8

18

Agree

38.2

27.5

39.4

32.4

42.5

27.7

44.9

30.5

38.0

31.4

30.9

35.5

41.5

31.5

27.5

42.1

34.2

18.3

22.4

26.9

35.7

25.4

32.8

35.7

Disagree

26.3

29.2

21.1

22

21.1

28.0

18.8

21.3

20.2

18.8

5.9

9.5

19.2

18.6

13.0

11.5

26.9

21.2

31.3

21.9

19.5

21.6

18.8

20.7

Definitely disagree

6.5

14.1

4.2

19.7

3.5

16.3

2.9

19

2.8

8.5

7.4

7.8

5.2

12.9

1.4

6.8

13.5

27.5

13.4

21.9

6.7

14.9

6.2

13.2

DK

10.4

18.7

5.6

6.9

9.7

16.4

5.8

8.9

10.8

19.2

7.4

4.9

11.2

20.4

10.1

7.6

11.4

22

11.9

10.8

14.5

25.7

9.4

12.3

Across all the samples, high levels of perceived risk were for xenotransplantation and preimplantation diagnosis. Generally, it is human genes in bacteria and animals used for medical studies that are perceived as posing the least risk, except for the forum sample, wherein genetically modified food and drinks was thought of as having less risk. In both public samples, great concern was shown for xenotransplantation. While in the 1997 sample, genetically modified food and drinks were considered to pose high risk; in 2000 the highest risk was associated with pest resistant crops followed by xenotransplantation, before GM food and drinks.

A divide of opinion can be seen when the above results are compared to the forum and scientist samples. Those applications that were deemed risky by the public are viewed as the least risky. On the other hand, pest resistant crops and GM food are seen as least risky and most beneficial by the forum and scientist samples. Preimplantation diagnosis was perceived to have the highest risk by the scientist sample and second highest by the forum sample.

The forum participants were most supportive of the applications with high support especially for Q7.1, Q7.2, Q7.3 and Q7.4. However for xenotransplantation (Q7.5) and preimplantation diagnosis (Q7.6) there was little difference between any of the groups. More public in 2000 definitely agreed to Q7c for every application compared to 1997, and similarly definitely disagreed with Q7b on usefulness, definitely disagreed on moral acceptability (Q7d), and definitely disagreed with encouraging the application (Q7e).
Attitudes towards products produced using Genetically Modified Organisms

Attitudes towards products produced using GMOs released into the environment were explored by Q8. These included better tasting tomatoes, meat that would be better for health, larger sports fish, oil-degrading bacteria, disease resistant crops and cows that produce more milk (Macer 1992, 1994). The results are in Table 7.

The level of support was highest for bacteria to clean oil spills, followed by disease resistant crops and tomato with better taste. The greatest resistance was for larger sport fish for all samples. There was no significant difference in opinion between the public and scientist samples except in the case of cows which produce more milk, which 60% of scientists supported compared to 42% of the public. Both samples showed majority support for the release of genetically modified plants in the form of tomatoes and disease resistant crops. However, there was a decrease in the degree of support from the 1991 and 1993 surveys. More forum participants agreed to all of the applications than the public and scientists.

Unlike the earlier surveys, the nature of concerns was investigated by asking "Why" after each application. The comments reveal considerable concern expressed about foods produced using genetically modified organisms. The concerns expressed by the largest proportions were that they were "unnatural", they would have unknown effects and were unnecessary. The results of analysis of the open comments will be presented elsewhere.

Table 7: Attitudes towards products produced using GMOs

Q8. If there was no direct risk to humans and only very remote risks to the environment, would you approve or disapprove of the environmental use of genetically engineered organisms designed to produce...?

%

P91

P93

P2000

F99

S91

S2000

Tomatoes with better taste
Yes

-

69

58.2

78.9

-

59.0

No

-

20

31.8

15.7

-

32.5

DK

-

11

10

5.7

-

8.5

Healthier meat
Yes

-

57

51.6

72.5

-

56.5

No

-

26

33.0

17.4

-

33.5

DK

-

17

15.4

10.1

-

9.9

Larger sport fish
Yes

19

22

19.4

13.0

16.1

19.3

No

50

54

64

60.9

56.9

66.5

DK

31

24

16.5

26.1

27.0

14.2

Bacteria to clean up oils spills
Yes

75

71

65.4

84.1

83.1

65.9

No

7

13

20.7

4.3

6.7

23.9

DK

18

16

13.9

11.6

10.2

10.2

Disease Resistant Crops
Yes

75

66

54.5

87.0

85.7

60.7

No

6

17

28.7

4.3

5.0

26.1

DK

19

17

16.8

8.7

9.3

13.2

Cows which produce more milk
Yes

44

42.1

68.1

-

59.7

No

32

39.6

23.2

-

29.0

DK

24

18.3

8.7

-

11.4

Attitudes towards Cross-species Gene Transfer

A further specific concern that some people have is cross-species gene transfer. Two specific questions that were modified from the 1993 survey (Q5, Q6) were used to explore the acceptance of food products made from cross species gene transfer. The results are in Table 8.

As in the 1993 survey, plant-plant gene transfers (Q5) were more acceptable than plant-animal gene transfers (Q6), and scientists were more approving than the public, with forum participants the most approving. We should note that because less people chose the "don't know" option in the 2000 sample the proportion of persons approving of Q6 increased, as did the proportion who disagreed.

The range of concerns show that there are still ethical concerns with genetic modification especially those in animals. From the open comments, we can see why the respondents made a differentiation between the two different types of gene transfers. Interestingly, the difference between Q6 and Q5 was similar in all samples, and the highest proportion of "Don't Know" was in scientists. For example:
P21 I think that it's good so long as it does not have harmful effects on the body (Q5)
P21 For some reason I don't like it (Q6)
P25 Because they're both plants (Q5)
P25 Crossing animals with plants is not good (Q6)
Some people did not differentiate between plant-plant and plant-animal transfers.
P7 if you think about it from man's point of view, isn't it for our cause? (Q5, Q6)
P20 Because it goes against nature (Q5, Q6)

Table 8: Attitudes towards cross species gene transfer

Q5. Genes from most types of organisms are interchangeable. Would rice made more nutritious through biotechnology be acceptable or unacceptable to you if genes were added from another type of plant, such as corn, why?

Q6. Would such rice be acceptable or unacceptable to you if the new genes came from an animal? Why?

%

P93

P2000

F99

S2000

P93

P2000

F99

S2000

Yes

39.2

32.3

69.4

48.9

10.6

18.6

44.4

37.5

No

25.5

39.5

9.7

35.2

40.3

54.0

19.4

43.2

DK

35.3

28.2

20.8

15.8

49.1

27.4

36.1

19.3

Acceptance of Gene Therapy

One medical application of genetic engineering that has been widely discussed is gene therapy. The first question on this in the survey (Q9) was a general question asking whether people would accept gene therapy in principle, and the results are shown in Table 9, with comparisons to the 1991 and 1993 surveys (Macer, 1992, 1994). They show that the Forum participants were more supportive of gene therapy in general, with little difference between the public and scientists. The results were more similar to 1991 than to the 1993 sample, suggesting some decrease in public acceptance since 1993. In particular scientists in 2000 were twice as more likely to say "very unwilling" compared to 1991. The reasons are being analyzed and will be discussed elsewhere.

Table 10 shows the results for a series of more specific applications of gene therapy, from a question taken from the 1993 survey (Macer, 1994; Macer et al. 1995). They show that the Forum participants were more supportive of gene therapy in general, with the scientists being more disapproving of enhancement uses of gene therapy (Q10efg). The results show that significantly more public disagreed with the application of gene therapy to specific therapeutic cases than they did in 1993, and continued to reject enhancement applications.

Table 9: Acceptance of gene therapy

Q9. If tests showed that you were likely to get a serious or fatal genetic disease later in life, how willing would you be to undergo therapy to have those genes corrected before symptoms appear?

%

P91

P93

P2000

S91

S2000

F99

Very willing

25

42

24.0

25.4

27.5

40.8

Willing

29

24

23.7

28.1

25.6

32.4

Unwilling

18

15

21.6

15.6

14.2

5.6

Very unwilling

12

6

15.9

13.6

24.4

15.5

Don't know

16

13

14.8

17.3

8.3

5.6

Table 10: Acceptance of gene therapy in specific cases

Q10. How do you feel about scientists changing the genetic makeup of human cells toc++Definitely agree; + Agree; - Disagree; -- Definitely disagree; DK Don't know

%

P93

P2000

F99

S2000

a. Cure a usually fatal disease, such as cancer
++

42.0

38.3

535

40.1

+

41.0

34.4

36.6

40.6

-

3.0

13.1

4.2

10.1

--

2.0

4.6

2.8

5.6

DK

12.0

9.6

2.8

3.6

b. Reduce the risk of developing a fatal disease earlier in life
++

35.0

28.4

40.8

30.5

+

40.0

34.8

40.8

40.9

-

5.0

16.7

11.3

15.4

--

1.0

6.0

2.8

5.0

DK

9.0

14.2

42.0

8.1

c. Prevent children from inheriting a usually fatal disease
++

37.0

29.8

43.7

27.7

+

43.0

36.2

35.2

32.5

-

3.0

16.3

11.3

19.8

--

1.0

5.7

4.2

8.5

DK

16.0

12.1

5.6

11.6

d. Prevent children from inheriting a non-fatal disease, such as diabetes
++

25.0

20.3

28.6

17.7

+

37.0

31.7

38.6

27.4

-

15.0

23.8

20.0

30.6

--

2.0

7.1

7.1

11.4

DK

21.0

17.1

5.7

12.9

e. Improve the physical characteristics that children would inherit
++

12.0

10.7

12.7

3.4

+

16.0

12.5

12.7

6.4

-

35.0

43.4

43.7

47.1

--

16.0

19.9

19.7

31.7

DK

21.0

13.5

11.3

11.5

f. Improve the intelligence level that children would inherit
++

13.0

9.6

8.5

3.4

+

13.0

10.3

4.2

5.3

-

35.0

45.2

47.9

45.0

--

49.0

22.4

22.5

33.8

DK

20.0

12.5

16.9

12.6

g. Make people more ethical
++

14.0

10.4

7.2

3.4

+

10.0

8.2

2.9

3.7

-

32.0

33.7

42.0

38.5

--

21.0

30.1

23.2

39.4

DK

23.0

17.6

24.6

15

h. As an AIDS vaccine
++

33.0

26.7

42.3

20.8

+

36.0

37.7

21.4

34.1

-

4.0

16.4

12.7

20

--

0.3

5.3

8.5

11.0

DK

27.0

13.9

11.3

14.1

Regulation of biotechnology

The regulation of biotechnology is linked to the expectations that respondents had about the future of biotechnology. A series of fixed questions where used to gauge this, largely coming from the 1997 telephone Eurobarometer survey (Macer et al. 1997). The results are shown in Table 11.

The public showed positive expectations of biotechnology, especially in food production. In the 2000 public sample, there was a 7% increase compared to the 1997 survey in the numbers who considered it likely that the use of biotechnology would reduce world hunger. At the same time, an 18% increase can be observed in the numbers of those respondents who were concerned about the possible effects of biotechnology in connection with reducing the range of available fruits and vegetables. Other areas of increased concern are observed, for example, in the possibility of allowing insurance companies to ask for a genetic test before they set a person's premiums.

The forum participant respondents were highly supportive of the potential of biotechnology in gene therapy and food production. Like scientists, they showed a strong concern about the future use of genetic tests by insurance companies. Medical benefits were expected by almost all forum respondents, and 79% of the scientist sample was highly expectant of the potential of biotechnology in curing most genetic diseases. A majority expected genetic fingerprinting to help solve crimes. Compared with the 1997 survey, and most of the 1999 forum sample, the public and scientists were somewhat more pessimistic that the range of fruits and vegetables would be reduced, or that most existing food products would be replaced, but still these persons were a majority. Fears of designer babies being made were not significantly different.

Table 11: Expectations of biotechnology

Q12.Below is a list of things that might happen within the next 20 years as a result of modern biotechology. For each one, please say whether you think it is likely or unlikely to happen within the next 20 years. Likely Unlikely DK

%

P97

P2000

F99

S2000

+

-

DK

+

-

DK

+

-

DK

+

-

DK

Substantially reducing environmental pollution

45.5

34.1

20.6

36.4

38.2

25.4

66.7

20.3

13.0

35.8

41.9

22.1

Allowing insurance companies to ask for a genetic test before they set a persons' premium

38.8

31.8

29.3

64.9

17.9

17.2

77.5

7.0

15.5

78.3

13.1

8.6

Substantially reducing world hunger

37.9

38.7

23.4

45.1

34.5

20.4

63.9

15.3

20.8

40

41.9

18.1

Creating dangerous new diseases

79.9

5.8

14.3

79.6

8.4

11.9

45.8

27.8

26.4

61.8

18.6

19.7

Solving more crimes through genetic fingerprinting

46.0

30.9

20.3

43

37.3

19.7

54.2

19.4

26.4

57.6

26.3

16.1

Reducing the range of fruits and vegetables we get

14.1

60.5

25.4

31.6

44.6

23.9

11.1

62.5

26.4

35.7

48.5

15.9

Curing most genetic diseases

78.7

8.3

13.0

74.3

12.0

13.7

95.8

2.8

1.4

78.9

10

11.1

Producing designer babies

30.4

48.2

21.4

31.6

43.9

24.5

27.8

45.8

26.4

24.1

56.4

19.5

Replacing most existing food products with new varieties

19.0

57.4

23.6

28.4

47.4

24.2

19.4

58.3

22.2

19.6

63.4

17


As shown in Table 12, fewer people in 2000 said they are willing to buy genetically modified fruits that taste better compared to the public in 1997. In 2000, the public and scientist samples agreed with the statement that genetically modified crops contribute in destroying biodiversity, but not the forum sample. People across all samples tend to disagree that risk must be taken in order to enhance economic competitiveness. Most agree that there is a need for labeling of GM products and more adequate regulations for biotechnological safety.

Table 12: Perceptions of regulation, benefits and risks of biotech

Q11. People have different views about the benefits and risks of modern biotechnology, and about how they should be regulated or controlled. For each one, please say whether you tend to agree or disagree.

%

P97

P2000

F99

S2000

Current regulations are sufficient to protect people from any risks linked to modern biotechnology
Tend to agree

8.0

11.7

15.7

10.9

Tend to disagree

62.2

68.6

68.6

70.6

Don't know

29.8

19.8

15.7

18.5

It is not worth putting special labels on genetically modified foods
Tend to agree

8.0

11.6

30.0

15.1

Tend to disagree

81.9

81.4

65.7

82.1

Don't know

10.1

7.0

4.3

2.8

I would buy genetically modified fruits if they tasted better
Tend to agree

35.5

20.0

55.9

32.1

Tend to disagree

36.9

53.0

26.5

52

Don't know

27.6

27.0

17.6

15.9

We have to accept some degree of risk from modern biotechnology if it enhances Japan's economic competitiveness
Tend to agree

11.5

13.0

14.3

13.5

Tend to disagree

60.9

77.9

71.4

73.3

Don't know

17.6

9.1

14.3

13.2

Genetically modified crops contribute to destroying biodiversity
Tend to agree

-

61.5

37.7

62.5

Tend to disagree

-

17.0

33.3

19.9

Don't know

-

21.5

29.0

17.6

A question about whom the public thinks is best placed to regulate modern biotechnology was asked (Q13). The results are shown in Table 13. The respondents were overwhelmingly in favor of international regulatory bodies, such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization. Following in a distant second were scientific organizations, and ethics committees. There was a significant drop in confidence in scientific organizations in Japan in 2000 compared to 1997. In the public sample, while there was an increase since 1997 in naming the UN as the most appropriate regulatory body, there was also a drop in confidence for government authorities, the Diet and scientific organizations. Very low confidence was shown for the Diet and other government agencies. This trend is reflected in all of the samples.

The next question asked the respondents about which of the following sources of information they have confidence in, to tell them the truth about modern biotechnology (Q14). The results are shown in Table 14. Across all samples, schools and universities were shown to be most trusted. There was some discrepancy between the public and the forum as well the scientist samples. The latter two accorded a higher level of trust to schools and universities. The forum and scientist sample also expressed less trust in consumer, environmental and animal welfare organizations compared to the public. Compared to all other groups, a higher proportion of forum participants expressed trust for industry, reflecting confidence in their own organizations. Political parties, trade unions, religious organizations and the media were trusted by even less people. Trust in industry may have dropped since 1997 while trust in Public Authorities increased.

Table 13: Perceptions about the appropriate regulatory body

Q13. Which of the following bodies do you think is best placed to regulate modern biotechnology? Please circle the most appropriate people or body

%

P97

P2000

F99

S2000

United Nations Organization

62.0

68.9

72.9

61.2

Government Authorities

6.0

3.8

10.0

7

Ethics Committees

12.0

9.8

1.4

8.4

Diet (Parliament)

3.0

1.4

0.0

2.8

Scientific Organizations

24.0

8.7

11.4

15.4

Others

1.2

3.8

2.9

3.1

Don't Know

10.0

3.5

1.4

2.2

Table 14: Trust in authorities

Q14. Which of the following sources of information you have confidence in, to tell you the truth about modern biotechnology.

%

P97

P2000

F99

S2000

Yes

No

Yes

No

Yes

No

Yes

No

Consumer Organizations

68.6

24.9

64.6

35.4

31.8

68.2

38.7

61.3

Environmental Organizations

65.8

28.9

64.0

36.0

33.8

66.2

38.2

61.8

Animal Welfare Organizations

53.8

39.7

53.2

46.8

25.4

74.6

30.5

69.5

Political Parties

7.0

88.4

5.7

94.3

7.7

92.2

4.5

95.5

Trade Unions

15.8

77.9

16.1

83.9

12.3

87.7

9.4

90.6

Religious Organizations

7.3

87.7

9.1

90.9

0.0

100

2.7

97.3

Public Authorities

21.6

73.4

26.1

73.9

52.3

47.7

24.3

75.7

Industry

26.4

68.1

18.7

81.3

32.8

67.2

17.3

82.7

Schools/Universities

57.5

34.7

67.4

32.6

82.8

17.2

78.2

21.8

Media

-

-

27.6

72.4

12.3

87.7

21.5

78.5


References

(Those by Macer are on-line at Eubios Ethics Institute web page)

Hoban, T. J. 1997. Consumer acceptance of biotechnology: An international perspective. Nature Biotechnology 15: 232-234.

Macer, D.R.J. 1992. Attitudes to genetic engineering: Japanese and international comparisons. Christchurch: Eubios Ethics Institute.

Macer, D.R.J. Bioethics for the people by the people. 1994. Christchurch: Eubios Ethics Institute.

Macer, D.R.J., H. Bezar, N. Harman, H. Kamada, and N. Macer Attitudes to Biotechnology in Japan and New Zealand in 1997, with International Comparisons, Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 7 (1997), 137-151.

Zechendorf, B. 1994. What the public thinks about biotechnology. Biotechnology 12: 870-875.

Appendix: Open comments given as Images of Biotechnology (Q3)
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