In this article we will discuss about the attitude of public in the science of genetic engineering.
However, genetic engineering is surprisingly being subjected to a massive level of criticism from a deeply suspicious public. While the American public seem to have a greater acceptance of the potentials of genetic engineering, in Europe the technology appears to arouse deep unease among many consumers.
Consumers demonstrate concern about ‘unknown’ health risks, possible deleterious effects on the environment and the ‘unnaturalness’ of transferring genes between unrelated species.
There is no doubt that many of the public or consumers are interested in the science of genetic engineering but are unable to understand the complexity of this subject. Furthermore, genetic engineering and its myriad of implications must not be beyond debate.
Public attitudes to genetic engineering will influence its evolution and marketplace applications. It is important for public confidence for everyone to recognise (including scientists) that all science is fallible—especially complex biological sciences.
The following questions arise as far as the understanding of genetic engineering is concerned:
What then must be done to advance public understanding of genetic engineering in the context of biotechnology?
What does the public need to know and how can this be achieved to ensure that the many undoubted benefits that this technology can bring to mankind do riot suffer the same fate as the food irradiation debacle in the UK in the early 1990s?
While gamma-irradiation of foods was demonstrated to be a safe and efficient method to kill pathogenic bacteria, it was not accepted by the lay public following the Chernobyl disaster, since most were unable to differentiate between the process of irradiation and radioactivity.
Effective communication about the benefits and risks of genetic engineering will depend on understanding the underlying concerns of the public together with any foreseeable technical risks. Over recent years there have been many efforts made to gauge the public awareness of biotechnology by questionnaires, Eurobarometers and Consensus Conferences.
Public attitudes to the application of genetic manipulation to a wide range of scenarios. While medical applications were more generally acceptable others such as the manipulation of animal and human genomes were highly unacceptable.
For centuries now man has been indirectly manipulating the genomes of plants and animals by guided matings primarily to enhance desired characteristics. In this way, food plants and animals bear little resemblance to their predecessors.