GENET archive


CONSUMER: Only 47% of U.S. voters see GE food as positive

                                 PART I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Double vision on biotech: Some see miracle cures, others a fearful
SOURCE: Boston Herald, USA
AUTHOR: Jay Fitzgerald
DATE:   07.05.2007

Double vision on biotech: Some see miracle cures, others a fearful future

Americans are highly confident about the biotech industry's ability to
find cures for diseases and develop new alternative fuels.

But biotch executives have work cut out for themselves in convincing
Americans - especially women - about the benefits of genetically
modified foods, according to new survey results released yesterday in
conjunction with the first day of the 2007 BIO International Convention
in Boston.

Thousands of convention delegates streamed into the South Boston
convention center yesterday to register for seminars, speeches and other
industry events through this Wednesday.

Today, the massive convention floor will be open to delegates, with
actor Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, giving the
keynote address about the importance of cutting-edge medical research.

U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy had been scheduled to speak before Fox, but called
on Friday to cancel due to a floor vote in the Senate, a conference
spokesman said.

The American people generally back strong research programs, even if
they're sometimes controversial, such as embryonic stem-cell research,
according to surveys commissioned by BIO, the Biotech Industry
Organization, producer of the Boston convention.

In fact, Americans overwhelmingly believe that finding cures to diseases
is more important than the current war on terrorism, according to
surveys conducted in April of about 800 voters.

People are also more confident than biotech executives, who were also
surveyed, about the industry's ability to develop alternative fuels that
are environmentally friendly, according to BIO.

But as for genetically modified foods, Americans don't necessarily like
scientists tinkering with Mother Nature.

Only 47 percent of voters surveyed view genetically modified foods as
positive - while 43 percent said the practice is "troubling."

Men are generally more supportive of genetically modified foods, with 58
percent seeing benefits to the controversial practice, according to
Geoffrey Garin, president of Hart Research, one of two outfits that did
the polling for BIO.

But 52 percent of females say they found genetically modified food

"It's really about safety, not science," said Garin of women being more
"cautious" about genetically altered foods.

In general, women tend to be more cautious on other scientific and
technological issues, such as nuclear energy, Garin said.

On embryonic stem-cell research, about 69 percent of males viewed it as
"positive" - while 57 percent of women viewed it as positive. Women over
the age of 55 are even more skeptical about embryonic stem-cell
research, Garin said of the survey results.

Joshua Boger, chief executive of Cambridge's Vertex Pharmaceuticals,
said he found it odd Americans are enthusiastic about the biotech
industry coming up with new fuels to make the country less dependent on
foreign oil - while being more reserved about genetically modified foods.

Many alternative fuels, such as enthanol, involve altering plant genes
to improve results, he said.

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                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Survey examines Americans' trust in science, approach to
        scientific issues
SOURCE: University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
AUTHOR: Press Release, by Dennis Chaptman
DATE:   01.05.2007

Survey examines Americans' trust in science, approach to scientific issues

MADISON - When it comes to forming opinions on controversial scientific
issues, Americans show a strong deference to the views of the scientific
community, according to a study co-authored by a University of Wisconsin-
Madison researcher.

Dominique Brossard, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism
and Mass Communication, says a random survey of 1,500 New York state
residents shows they lean heavily on scientists as they form opinions on
agricultural biotechnology.

In fact, for many citizens, deference to scientific authority serves as
a convenient shortcut that replaces information from mass media or a
technical knowledge of issues such as genetically engineered foods.

"We trust scientists to the point that we defer to them," says Brossard,
who conducted the study with Matthew C. Nisbet, an assistant professor
of communication at American University. "And that raises the question:
We want to trust scientists - but do we want citizens to go so far as to
blindly defer to experts?"

Brossard says the American educational system is where citizens learn to
lean heavily on the scientific community for answers on science policy.

"Transmitted to citizens by the educational system and popular culture,
deference to scientific authority means that when science controversies
do occur, deference likely generates among Americans an almost natural
pro-science or pro-technology view," according to the research,
published in the spring 2007 International Journal of Public Opinion Research.

There are factors, however, that compete with Americans' trust in
science, she says, including environmental orientations and religious
values. For a number of issues, religious perspectives are likely to
compete strongly with deference to science - as has been shown in
debates over issues such as embryonic stem-cell research and evolution,
she notes. But Brossard adds that a green orientation has not become
part of the social fabric here as strongly as it has in western Europe.

Brossard says the study raises some concerns for citizens as they weigh
scientific issues.

"Let's not forget that technical innovations have not only scientific
consequences, but ethical, legal and social implications. It's not
necessarily good for citizens to think that scientists should have the
final say," she says. "Scientists are good at what they do. But how much
trust is too much trust?"

Brossard notes that few citizens have the motivation or ability to go
beyond deference toward scientific authority when judging the potential
of new technologies. With this in mind, scientists need to make sure the
use the trust granted them responsibly when engaging the public on
controversial science.

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