Expectations of biotech of Japanese high school students in 1998

- Hiromitsu Komatsu & Darryl Macer
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), 142-7.
Abstract

A survey of high school student expectations on biotechnology was made, including the information, where it came from, how information resources influence their scientific thoughts. GM crops were used as the theme of biotechnology, because the technology is concerned with food which all people have a relationship with. From the 977 responses obtained from 8 high schools it was found most high schools' students expected benefits and risks from biotechnology. A wide variety of fruits and vegetables improvements were given when students were asked to think about how they would improve their favourite fruit and vegetable. The information given by mass media tended to increase the feeling that science was risky.

1. Introduction

Biotechnology is widely used in many fields of medicine, health, food, resources, environment, and energy, and people hold high expectations for technical innovation in the 21st century. Macer carried out opinion surveys on genetic engineering covering entire Japan since 1991 (Macer, 1992). They found people give stronger support to applications of biotechnology that are specific. Acceptance has fallen through the 1990s (Chen Ng et al. 2000; Macer & Chen Ng, 2000).

In 1997, a questionnaire to Tokyo City consumers' monitors found 90% said they knew of genetic modified (GM) foods. More than 90% of the respondents were interested in GMOs. Among items of interest, 91% of the respondents answered "Safety" (male 84%, female 92.8%), 25% answered "Usefulness" (male 35%, female 22%), and 22% answered "Influence on the environment" (male 17%, female 24%) and 22% answered "The present condition of the circulation". The results indicated that relatively more females were highly interested in "Safety" and "Influence on the environment", and more males were highly interested in "Usefulness". More than 80% didn't feel like eating GMOs, and, especially a higher rate of females than male answered so. 85% of the respondents (male 78%, female 88%) felt afraid of unknown allergies etc. which is impossible to perfectly predict in the present condition, 45% (male 39%, female 48%) felt afraid of an influence on the environment, for example, the crops made by genetic engineering became weeds, and 21% (male 29%, female 18%) expected much from the future of GMOs. Relatively more females had more negative answers than males.

Today, there are many information resources in scientific knowledge. As Sugihara (1997) said, mass media, especially television, has much influence on children's education and development, because mass media is easy to connect with, and it is easy to get much information. The main resource of scientific information cited in surveys is "television". In the 1992 survey 34-36% of the public and 26-31% of the students listed newspapers and television (Macer, 1992). In STAFF's 1997 survey on the utility of genetic engineering in the field of agriculture and food, they asked people in Japan what is the resource for your information about food made from genetically manipulated organisms. In the results, the main resource selected among "television, newspapers, general magazine, radio, pamphlets, friends, lecture meeting, special magazine, books, place of work and others", was "television" and the next was "newspapers". In a 1995 survey (Hoban 1997) people were asked the resource of information which for the past 12 months. In the results, the main resource was "television" among "television, newspaper, discussion in place of work or school, scientific magazine, books, general magazine, discussion with your friends or family and radio", and the next was "newspaper".

2. Education strategies

Science and technology present both benefits and risks to society. Therefore, we, the public, should not just receive them, but should actively debate our opinions and participate in discussion of bioethical issues. Bioethics education will be a support to make a better relationship between life and technology. If we want to develop a bioethically mature society, one that can balance benefits and risks of science applications, we need to think of education strategies.

Teachers at high schools in Japan in 1991 and 1993 were asked whether they had taught about ethical, social, or environmental issues associated with genetic engineering during the last 2 years of high school (Macer, 1992; Macer et al. 1996). Some have. In our communication with teachers, several problems make it difficult for many high schools to introduce debate or discussion. Most of teachers introduce it as the way without a burden that in their class, they make their students watch video and newspaper with scientific problems, for example, both benefits and risks of genetic engineering, are treated, or handouts which they made, and make their students write their thoughts.

We can ask how to measure the maturity of the students' thoughts? As many teachers use, most popular way is questionnaire or reports which students wrote in a class. Though the way has some problems that students honestly write their own thoughts, it would be good not only to know students' thoughts, but also to make students think. This is why a survey of how students' individual power of thinking is cultivated in high school was conducted. One of the important principles is that there is a continuum from acceptable to unacceptable and there is not necessarily any right answer.

3. Results of interviews and surveys with teachers

In the International Bioethics Survey (Macer, 1994), there is 90+% support for "including discussion of social issues associated with science and technology in school, so that students can participate in contemporary debates" in all countries, Australia, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, India, Singapore, Russia and Thailand. It therefore appears that there is very widespread support for inclusion of bioethics teaching in schools. In the Bioethics Education survey, teachers were even more supportive. (Macer et al. 1996).

At the same time as conducting a student survey described in this paper, a survey asking teachers whether they taught or prepared to teach about "GM crops" and biotechnology in their class, was asked, as well as the content, to some members of the Bioethics Education Network in Japan (Asada & Macer, 1998). In reply, 5/7 biology teachers said they taught about "GM crops" in class, and one biology teacher said they were preparing. All biology teachers taught under the field of "Gene". The contents were only to explain the techniques easily and to show some examples and some problems, for example, safety. No teachers said they taught it in detail. Only 2 teachers answered they want to make their students make a choice whether it is benefit or risk. Four biology teachers said they used or will use newspapers, video, and handouts that they made. 3 biology teachers answered they made their students write their thoughts about the topics as the reports or in questionnaire. They said it made their students think about some problems of science, and got them into the habit of thinking.

4. High school student expectations of biotechnology

The mass media, especially television, has much influence on children's education and development. In September-November 1998 we surveyed the expectations and acceptance of "GM crops", and of biotechnology, of Japanese high school students, as well as their information resources about science, to examine the influence and images which information gives. The influences of media and bioethics education were also examined. The questionnaire was designed considering previous surveys used by Macer (1992, 1994, 1997), and consisted of 11 questions, including 12 opened-ended ones.

The questionnaire was printed on two A3 papers. On the first sheet, an explanation of "genetic modified crops" was written. The contents were the explanation of "What is gene", "What is genetic modified crops", "The objectives of making GM crops" and "Are GM crops safe or dangerous?" For students who didn't remember the term "GM crops", the explanation was written.

Q1, Q2 and Q3 are questions on scientific interest (Macer 1992). Q4 was one of the Biocult survey question (Macer et al. 1997) that gives specific examples of modification of fruit and vegetables. In Q5, a series of four questions were asked over whether they students considered GM crops useful for society (a), risky for society (b), whether they want to eat "GM crops" (c), and whether they thought this application should be encouraged (d). It was a modified and simplified question from that used in Eurobarometer (Macer et al. 1998), so that high school students could understand the sentences more easily, following comments from teachers during a preliminary trial of the draft questions.

A number of different senior high schools were surveyed from first to third grade (Table 1). Because several of the schools were girl only schools, 74% of the respondents are female. More of the students were in the second and third year of high school, being mainly 16-18 year olds.

Table 1: Student characteristics from high schools

%s

N

% male

1st

2nd

3rd

Total

977

26

23

36

40

Nihonbashi

229

46

0

50

50

Toyota Higashi

130

0

0

0

100

Mikita

228

38

100

0

0

Adachi Shindan

19

58

0

0

100

Mito Second Girls

114

0

0

100

0

Hitachi kita

24

54

0

0

100

Zushi Kaisei

35

100

0

100

0

Urawa Daiichi Girls

198

0

0

47

53

Knowledge and interest in biotechnology

Q1 asked students whether they like natural sciences (Table 2). Q2 asked whether they knew anything about "GM crops"? There was no significant difference between females (35% yes) and males (32% yes), in the responses to this question. The level of awareness is lower than the results of the general public surveys of 1991, 1993 and 1996 conducted by Macer. This question also asked them to write examples of what they knew, and perhaps it made people more cautious to say yes, hence the student results are lower than the public (Table 3).

While the examples are summarised in Table 3, many students didn't write about GM crops. We can compare to the comments given for Q7 and Q10 on "GM crops". (Q7 is knowledge which they got through their high school class, and Q10 is knowledge which they got through others than their class) .In Q7, 23% of the respondents who said they had heard something about "GM crops" in their class wrote about "GM crops" (Table 10). 13% wrote "crops made by breeding which has ever been used, for example, cell fusion or polyploid breeding". They thought "crops made by breeding which has ever been used" were "GM crops", for example, tomapi and pomato. Tomapi is improved pepper without genetic engineering, and is shaped like a tomato. Some had incorrect knowledge. 4% wrote "other genetic engineering, for example, cloning". They stated genetic engineering, including "GM crops".

Table 2: Interest in science and awareness of GM crops

%

Total

Male

Female

N

977

252

721

Q1. Do you like natural sciences?

Like very much

8

6

8

Like

30

33

29

Don't like

23

19

25

Don't like at all

12

12

13

Neither

24

27

23

Not stated

3

4

2

Q2. Do you know anything about "GM crops"?

Yes

33

27

35

No

66

71

64

Not stated

1

2

0.8

Q3. Are you interested in "GM crops"?

Yes

33

25

36

No

65

73

62

Not stated

2

2

2

In Q10, 28% of the respondents who said they had heard something about "GM crops" other than in your high school classes wrote about "GM crops" (Table 12). 14% wrote "crops made by breeding which has ever been used". They thought "crops made by breeding which have been used" were "GM crops", the same as Q7. 4% wrote "other genetic engineering". Some students wrote that in shopping centres, they looked at food in the wrapping paper and wrote comments like, "This food isn't made of GM crops". But some of them answered "I looked at a tomapi".

About 13-14% of students who had heard something about "GM crops" had incorrect knowledge. Their teachers said they taught their students "GM crops" after they had taught cell fusion and polyploid breeding. They thought of "GM crops" as improved crops. It is mixed knowledge.

In response to the question on their interest in "GM crops" (Q3), 34% showed what we can call "Scientific interest" (Table 3). "Scientific interest" is interest in the technique of making "GM crops" or scientific development, for example comment, "I want to know the technique" and "I think it is wonderful." 27% were interested in "Safety", that is, whether "GM crops" are safe or not. 9% gave "benefits for human beings", for example, "We can eat delicious food". Another type was more broad, 6% mentioned "Benefits for the environment", like "It is possible to plant trees in the desert". About 5% gave "Social and economic benefit", for example, "It is useful for poor countries", 4% gave "Agricultural benefit", for example, "It is possible to increase the yield", and 3% said they "Want to eat (3%)".

In the case of males, 33% of the respondents who answered they were interested in "GM crops" showed "Scientific interest", and there are no significant difference between male and female, and 16% were interested in safety issues. However, more females, 29%, were interested in safety, despite the same level of scientific interest (34%).

Concerns about biotechnology

In Q5, a series of four questions were asked over whether they students considered GM crops useful for society (a), risky for society (b), whether they want to eat "GM crops" (c), and whether they thought this application should be encouraged (d). (Table 4).

Table 3: Types of comments GMOs given by students (Q2 - Do you know anything about GMOs? and Q3 - Are you interested?)

%

Total

Male

Female

Q2: GMOs

47

49

47

Cell fusion etc.

27

19

29

Breeding

9

13

8

Other genetic

3

6

2

Only the word

5

4

5

Others

4

6

3

Not stated

5

3

6

Q3: Safety

27

16

29

Environment

6

5

6

Human

9

13

8

Social / economic issues

5

8

4

Scientific interest

34

33

34

Want to eat

3

5

2

Agriculture

4

6

3

Other

9

10

9

Not stated

9

6

9

Table 4: Impressions of GM crops (Q5)

%

Total

Male

Female

Q5a. Do you think GM crops are useful for society?

Definitely agree

16

26

12

Agree

36

27

39

Disagree

12

10

12

Definitely disagree

3

3

3

Don't know

32

31

32

No answer

2

3

2

Q5b. Do you think GM crops are risky for society?

Definitely agree

12

18

10

Agree

29

22

32

Disagree

12

11

13

Definitely disagree

4

6

4

Don't know

39

40

39

No answer

3

4

3

Q5c. Do you want to eat "GM crops"?

Definitely agree

11

18

9

Agree

25

20

27

Disagree

24

20

26

Definitely disagree

11

13

11

Don't know

26

26

25

No answer

3

4

2

Q5d. All in all, do you think GM crops should be encouraged?

Definitely agree

21

32

18

Agree

26

22

27

Disagree

13

8

14

Definitely disagree

7

10

6

Don't know

30

23

32

No answer

4

5

4

In Q5a we see the student respondents had a positive attitude to GM crops, with three times more agreeing than disagreeing. The open comments given in response to question 5 were analyzed using the method of concept categories, based on those used for benefits and risks of biotechnology, and concerns about consuming GMOs (Macer 1994, Table 5). In males, the most frequent category was "Agricultural benefit" (10%), the next was "food (9%)". In females, the most frequent was "Food" (13%), next was "Help if careful" (11%) and "Agricultural benefit" (10%).

About half of all students, both male and female tended to agree with the benefits of "GM crops", and 13-15% tended to disagree. Some felt "GM crops" presented both benefit and risk as revealed in responses to Q5b on the risk (Table 4). The same tendency on risks was found in both males and females, and the overall reasons are in Table 6. In males, the most frequently cited category was "Human health / Deformities", the next was "We can control / Limit the use" then "Disaster / Danger". In females, the most frequent was the category "We can control / Limit the use", the next was "Disaster / Danger" and "Human health / Deformities (9%)".

About 40% of all students, male and female tended to agree the risk of "GM crops", and 16-17% tended to disagree. The most frequently about risk were comments about obscure danger, future accidents, and danger for human health, but many of the students gave comments that suggested benefits and that we can keep any harms under control, including some notion of both benefit and risk. For it, students who answered "tend to agree" in Q5b was the most common option given, the same as Q5a. Given this mixed concern, positive and negative the next question asked whether they would eat the products.

Table 5: Open comments about benefits (Q5a) and acceptability (Q5d) of GM crops

%

Q5a

Mal

Fem

Q5d

Mal

Fem

Not Stated

28

25

29

33

29

34

Socioeconomicbenefit

8

8

7

2

2

2

Science

1

2

1

11

11

11

Don't need

3

3

3

5

5

5

Cure disease

2

0.4

3

0.4

0.4

0.4

Food

12

9

13

6

8

5

Humanity

3

2

4

2

0.4

3

Bad for environment

0.9

0.8

1

1

1

1

Good for environment

3

2

3

1

2

1

Help if careful

9

5

11

17

12

19

Agricultural benefit

10

10

10

2

2

2

Other

3

5

2

3

3

4

Insufficient control/fear of misuse

0.4

0.4

0.4

3

2

3

Dangerous

2

2

2

2

2

2

Interfere with nature / unnatural

3

0.4

4

4

2

5

Causes disease

2

0

2

1

0

2

Fear of unknown

12

19

9

7

12

5

Increase efficiency

7

9

6

5

8

4

Humanity changed

2

2

2

0.7

0.4

0.8

Not interested

0.9

1

0.8

2

3

2

Table 6: Open comments about risks of GM crops (Q5b)

%

Total

Male

Female

Not Stated

31

31

31

Don't Know

14

17

13

Interfere with nature

5

2

6

Fear of unknown

6

4

7

Ethical

1

0.8

2

Humanity changed / social impact

3

3.6

3

Insufficient control

0.1

0

0.1

Human health

9

11

9

Disaster / danger

10

8

10

Ecological / environmental

3

0.8

3

Don't need

0.6

0

0.8

Human misuse

5

4

5

Can control or limit the use

11

10

12

Other

5

7

4

Somehow / nothing special

2

4

1

There was less agreement when it came to the question of eating (Q5c) than benefits. There was no gender difference in overall acceptance, with 26% saying they do not know (Table 4). Overall in the open response question to Q5c (Table 7), the most frequently cited comment in all students' comments was the category "Needed", next was "Safety". In all students, both male and female, the proportion of the students who wanted to eat "GM crops" was nearly equal to the proportion of the students who didn't want to eat them. Those who were most enthusiastic in support to Q5c usually stated an interest in "GM crops" and that they wanted to try eating them with conditional support if it is safe.

The final question in the series, Q5d, was on the general application of the research, more students tended to agree to encourage this application than disagree. There was no gender difference. The same categories as Q5a were used, and the overall results are in Table 5. In response to Q5d's open-ended question, the most frequent student comment was the category "Help if careful", next was "Scientific knowledge". The scientific interest found in Q5d is consistent with the results for Q3.

Table 7: Open comments on eating or not eating GM crops (Q5c)

%

Total

Male

Female

Not Stated

26

25

26

Long term risk

0.8

0.4

1

Quality unsure

2

2

3

Safety

13

9

15

Unknown result

5

5

5

Unnatural

4

1

5

Unknown research

0.1

0

0.1

Lack information

1

1

2

Environment / ecology

0.1

0

0.1

Economic / social concern

0.9

0.8

1

Ethical concern

0.1

0

0.1

Unknown health

6

5

6

Not needed

2

2

2

Increase food

0.1

0.4

0

Needed

21

21

21

Already done

0.7

2

0.3

Other

7

5

7

Don't know / No interest

4

10

1

General danger

0.1

0

0.1

Table 8: Comments on encouraging research on GM crops (Q5d)

%

Total

Male

Female

Not Stated

33

29

34

Socio-economic benefit

2

2

2

Science

11

11

11

Don't need

5

5

5

Cure disease

0.4

0.4

0.4

Food

6

8

5

Humanity

2

0.4

3

Bad for environment

1

1

1

Good for environment

1

2

1

Help if careful

17

12

19

Agricultural benefit

2

2

2

Other

3

3

4

Insufficient control/fear of misuse

3

2

3

Dangerous

2

2

2

Interfere with nature / unnatural

4

2

5

Causes disease

1

0

2

Fear of unknown

7

12

5

Increase efficiency

5

8

4

Humanity changed

0.7

0.4

0.8

Not interested

2

3

2

Images of enhancing fruits and vegetables

In Q4, students were asked how could crops, which they like, be improved by genetic engineering. This question is one of Biocult surveys' question. (Biocult, 1996; Macer at el. 1997a). In Biocult, this question was only given to 11-12 year olds was to ask them what their favourite fruit and vegetable was, and then to suggest ways it may be improved, and whether it would be useful. The most common reasons for the change were convenience (NZ 26%, J 28%, Europe 32%), better to eat (NZ 17%, J 45%, Europe 21%), economic (NZ 16%, J 17%, Europe-none in Britain or Germany, 17% in Spain, 4 children in Finland - overall 10%). Objections were suggested by some (No change: NZ 25%, J 17%, Europe 15% (especially high in Germany); Dangerous: NZ 3%, J 2%, Europe 4%). The respondents think biotechnology makes fruits and vegetables convenient, better to eat, and more economic.

The results of this survey for the variety of vegetables and fruits are in Table 9, and the reasons in Table 10. In response to this question, 28% of students drew pictures, with no gender differences in frequency. Overall, 14% of all students wrote comments of the general type "better to eat". It includes the comments about "Good taste" and "Enjoy to eat", for example, "It may taste good." and "It is possible to eat much." 13% wrote their comments about the category "convenience", for example, "It is easy to eat." In males and females, these two categories were the highest cited. They expected delicious, nutritious, big sized crops, and convenient crops, for example, fruits without no seeds, ones which it was easy to peel, ones with two different fruits' taste, vegetables which children who don't like vegetables can eat, and so on. While some of their thoughts were unrealistic, they expected better crops. As the category "Good for environment", the following comments was raised, "If it become difficult to spoil quickly, rubbish will decrease. If taste of vegetables is made delicious, the number of children who can eat vegetable will increase."

Table 10: Comments on improvement of fruits/vegetables (Q4)

%

Total

Male

Female

Not Stated

35

32

36

Better to eat

14

6

14

No change

0.8

0.3

0.6

Human-centered

2

0.7

2

Moral

0.1

0

0

Fruit centered

0.2

0.1

0.3

Dangerous

0.2

0.1

0.1

Good for environment

2

0.6

2

Economic

3

1

3

Healthy

1

0.6

1

Other

4

2

4

Convenience

13

5

14

No problem

0.2

0.1

0.1

Don't know

5

2

4

Keeping longer

3

1

3

Bad for environment

0.1

0

0.1

Bad in general

6

3

6

Unnatural

3

1

4

No need

3

1

3

Somehow

1

0.6

1

Would be funny

3

1

3

Not to starve

2

0.7

2

Bad taste

0.6

0.2

0.8

Impossible

0.4

0.2

0.6

Agricultural benefit

4

1

3

@

Table 9
: Types of fruits and vegetables listed by students (Q4)

%

Total

Male

Female

Banana

2

2

2

Kiwis

0.5

0.5

0.5

Peach

7

6

7

Strawberries

5

3

5

Carrot

1.1

2

0.9

Cucumber

4

3

4

Melon

5

8

4

Apples

5

6

5

Grapes

5

5

5

Potatoes

3

3

3

Pineapple

0.8

1

0.6

Orange

1

1

0.9

Pear

0.4

0.3

0.4

Plum

0.3

0

0.4

Lemon

0.2

0.5

0.1

Cherry

3

0.7

4

Onions

1

0.5

2

Watermelon

5

8

3

Pumpkin

2

0.8

3

Tomato

6

6

7

Spinach

1

0.7

1

Mikan

7

8

7

Pepper

1

1

1

Mango

0.3

0.3

0.3

Eggplant

2

1

2

Lettuce

4

3

4

Celery

0.5

0.5

0.5

Cabbage

3

3

2

Persimmon

2

2

2

Nashi

8

12

6

Chinese cabbage

1

0.5

1

Papaya

0.1

0

0.2

Corn

1

0

1

Sweet potato

2

0.3

2

Grapefruit

1

0.7

1

Asparagus

0.4

0

0.5

Leek

1

0.3

1.1

Chingensai

0

0

0.1

Chestnut

0.4

0

0.5

Blueberry

0.1

0

0.1

Other

8

4

9

Not stated

0.1

2

0

All fruits

0.1

0.7

0

Everything

0

1

0

Nothing special

0

0.8

0

Influence of media and teaching on attitudes

In Q6 and Q7, we asked them whether they heard anything about "GM crops" in their high school classes or not and what subjects it was (Table 11). Most had heard in biology classes, with some in social studies. In Q7 and Q10 the types of subjects were requested, and a summary of the general types of answer is in table 12. In Q8, the students who said "yes" in Q6 were asked what impression they had when they heard it (Table 11). A total of 49% said good and 35% bad. 22% answered "both good and bad". In Q9 and Q10, the students were asked whether they heard anything about "GM crops" from some source other than their high school classes or not and where (Table 13). The most frequently cited source was the 84% who answered "television", next 23% answered "newspaper, and 5% answered "magazine" (plural answers were permitted.) Other information resources that were cited were "parents" and "Shopping centres".

Table 11: Frequency of listening about "GM crops" in high school classes? (Q6), the classes in which it was discussed (Q7), and impressions (%).

Have you heard?

Total

Male

Female

Yes

29

16

33

No

67

77

63

No answer

5

8

4

From those who said Yes, Q7. Classes (open)

Biology

77

45

82

Social studies

9

28

6

Elective

0.4

3

0

Don't remember

0.7

5

0

Science

4

8

5

House keeping

2

3

2

Ethics

0.7

0

0.8

English

0

0

0

Home room

1

8

0

Science (Junior HS)

1

0

2

Science (primary sch)

0.7

0

0.8

Not stated

4

5

3

Q8. What impression did you get?

Very good

5

7

4

Good

22

24

22

Bad

16

22

15

Very bad

3

0

3

Both good and bad

22

7

24

No impression

29

34

28

Not stated

4

5

4

Table 12: Examples of information recollected

Example

Teaching (Q7)

(Q10) Other information

GMOs

23

28

Cell fusion etc.

13

14

Breeding

0.7

6

Other genetics

4

4

Don't remember/Only word

24

14

Others

7

6

Not stated

29

28

In Q10, the students who said "yes" in Q9 were asked what impression they got. Half answered good and 29% answered bad. Thus more students had good images than those who had

bad images. The types of examples they cited were generally similar to those given in Q7 (Table 12), except that more mentioned breeding, and also less of the students had forgotten the contents (14%) then they had from lectures (24%). GMOs were the most frequently cited examples, though this may not be a general image of biotechnology rather it depends on the questions given and focus of this survey.

From the results of these questions we can examine the influence of the mass media and education on students' thoughts about "GM crops". A comparison was made on the questions in Q5, namely whether students considered GM crops useful for society (a), risky for society (b), whether they want to eat "GM crops" (c), and whether they thought this application should be encouraged (d). Responses to Q9 for television, newspaper, radio, magazine, books and Internet were considered mass media. A comparison to agreement with Q5abcd was made between respondents who answered they got information through only mass media (Group "Only media information"), ones who answered they got through only their high schools' class (Group "Only education information"), and ones who answered they got no information (Group "No information"). The results found a significant difference between "No information" and "Only media information" (Chi squared = 12.48, p = .0059). But there was no significant difference between "No information" and "Only education information". These results will show that students who got information through mass media tended to feel "GM crops" are more risky for society than ones that got no information.

The Chi square test was also applied to examine the difference in interest in GMOs (Q3) of "No information" and "Only media information" groups, and found a significant difference between the two groups (Chi squared = 75.46, p < .0001). In the group "No information", the number of students who were interested in "GM crops" was significantly lower, and the number who were not interested was significantly higher, but in group "Only media information", the number of students who were interested in "GM crops" was significantly higher, and the number who were not interested was significantly lower. These results show that students who got information through the mass media tended to be interested in "GM crops" more than ones that got no information are.

Table 13: Frequency of listening about "GM crops" from sources other than high school classes? (Q9), the sources (Q10), and impressions (%).

Q9Male

Female

Yes

46

40

49

No

50

53

48

No answer

4

7

3

Q10. If you answered "yes" to Q9, please chose one of the following choices, and write about it.

Newspapers

23

14

25

Magazines

5

8

4

TV

84

84

83

Radio

2

1

2

People

4

5

4

Rumour

5

3

5

Others

8

8

7

Not stated

0.4

0

0.6

Q11. What impression did you get?

Very good

5

9

3

Good

22

27

20

Bad

22

11

24

Very bad

7

5

7

Both good & bad

19

12

21

No impression

22

30

20

Not stated

4

6

4

5. Discussion and conclusions

The majority of students surveyed in this research had high expectations of biotechnology, but these expectations were moderated by some concerns. Surprisingly, only one third said that they had heard of GM crops, despite the fact that the issue of labeling of GMOs in food has been a common topic in the mass media in 1998, and that earlier surveys found two thirds of the general public had heard of GMOs (Macer, 1994). Although the proportion of high school students who said they were interested in "GM crops" (33%) was significantly lower than those who were not interested (65%), all students wrote a variety of comments. Scientific interest (34%), that is, a interest in the technique of making "GM crops" or scientific development, was the most frequent reason. These students were purely interested in what was made by the technique, and the nature of the technique. Interestingly, while 36% of female students said they were interested only 26% of male students said so. The schools chosen are not broad enough to represent all of Japan, but it raises doubts over the traditional image that boys are more interested in science than girls. It may be reflected in the trends for biology departments to have increasing proportion of female students in recent years.

In Q4, many students hoped for better crops to eat, for example, delicious crops, and convenient crops, for example, fruits with no seeds, because when they eat, it is easier. Many students expected technology to decrease their effort to eat crops, especially, fruits. There were less comments for "no change" and "no need". We found that there was much influence of pomato on their image of "genetic modified crops", and image also seen by the public in surveys (Macer et al. 1997b). Most students thought of genetic engineering as the technique, which everything could be made from as, revealed in the unrealistic comments and pictures in Q4. This may be due to the media image portrayed by popular science magazines, television and scientists who promote science. If people have false expectations of present technology they may be disappointed, therefore, students may need to learn the success as well as limitations of present biotechnology.

Consistent with the previous surveys of biotechnology conducted in Japan, there were mixed feelings expressed by the students and teachers who were surveyed and interviewed in this projects. About half of the students agreed with the need for GM crops. At the same time, 40% of students felt there were risks. In their comments about the risk, there were many comments about dangers, including dangers for human health, but some of these comments for the risk question (Q5b) also suggested benefit.

The survey found that students who got information through only the mass media tended to be more interested in and vaguely felt afraid of "GM crops" than students who got no information, and as one of the results, students who got information through only mass media would get fragmentary knowledge about "GM crops", and its information may increase their fear. For comparison Chen & Raffan (1999) reported that Taiwanese high school students received their information largely from textbooks, and with UK students, only half could give examples of genetic engineering. In New Zealand however, class visits (DM) show senior year students in some schools are given homework as part of preparation for exams to gather material every week on these topics from the media or Internet.

5. Acknowledgments

This research could not have been conducted without the warm support of members of the high school bioethics network in Japan, and especially Ms. Hosoda at Urawa Daichi Girls High School, Mr. Kitaura at Mikita High School, Ms. Makimoto at Toyota Higashi High School, Mr. Mizutani and Ms. Sato at Toyoshima High School, Mr. Sawada at Mito Daini High School, Mrs. Sawada at Hitachikita High School, Mr. Shiraishi at Adachi Shinden High School, Mr. Sugiyama at Zushi Kaisei High School, Mr. Tetsu at Hakuyou High School, Mr. Yamashita at Nihonbashi High School, and their students. I would like to thank them very much. We also thank former members of the bioethics laboratory, including Koji Amemiya, Yukiko Asada, Hisanori Higurashi, Hiroko Obata, Takeshi Oka, and Kazushi Tsuruta.

6. References

Biocult Chadwick, R. and Levitt, M., et al. (1996), Cultural and Social objections to biotechnology: Analysis of the arguments with particular reference to the views of young people. One year project funded under the European Union's Biotech programme.

Chen Ng, M.A., C. Takeda, T. Watanabe & D. Macer (2000), " Attitudes of the Public and Scientists to Biotechnology in Japan at the start of 2000", EJAIB106 (2000), 106-13.

Chen, SY. & Raffan, J. (1999) "Biotechnology: student's knowledge and attitudes in the UK and Taiwan", J.Biol.Edu. 34: 17-23.

Hoban, TJ. (1997), "Consumer acceptance of biotechnology: An international perspective", Nature Biotechnology 15, 232-4.

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

Macer, D.R.J. Bioethics for the People by the People. (Eubios Ethics Institute, 1994).

Macer, D.R.J., Asada, Y., Tsuzuki, M., Akiyama, S., & Macer, N.Y. (1996), Bioethics in high schools in Australia, Japan &New Zealand (Eubios Ethics Institute, 1996).

Macer, D., Obata H., Daniels, K. & Bezar, H. "Biotechnology and young citizens: Biocult in New Zealand and Japan", EJAIB 7 (1997), 111-114.

Macer, D. & Chen Ng, MA. "Changing attitudes to biotechnology in Japan", Nature Biotechnology 18 (2000), 945-7.


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