Public Perception on GMO - 5th TransitionLab Insight Event

The 5th TransitionLab Insight Event (November 19, 2021) was hosted by Dr. Marco Schmitt and Christoph Heckwolf (both RWTH Aachen University) and featured a 15-minute talk about a literature review and a topic modelling on the public perception on genetic modification, genetic engineering and biotechnology including genetic modification. For this purpose 45 scientific publications from 1994 to 2020 were screened and 14 were selected for content analysis. Additionally, a topic modelling was done with over 26.000 newspaper articles (in the NEXIS database) on the key subjects in the period from 1982 to 2021 to discern overall attitude changes.

The key takeaway messages (see the final report link here and the recording of the presentation link here) can be summarized in the following way:

  • Public and individual acceptance will most likely be determined by weighing "risk-benefit" trade-offs.

  • Genetic engineering applications are most likely to be accepted if they are linked to goals that are considered desirable or socially useful by the population or the individual.

  • Public opinion is determined by the processes associated with genetic engineering and not by the products of these processes.

  • The public's ethical concerns relate to applications involving animals or human genetic material, rather than plants or microorganisms.

  • Public concern about ethical and environmental issues cannot be solved by product selection and personal choice alone. A dialogue is necessary.

  • There is no evidence that a lack of information is responsible for a lack of technology acceptance. More information does not lead to a broader acceptance, but rather to a stronger polarization of existing positive and negative attitudes.

  • Attitudes are relatively stable across the timeframe, with a more positive view on biotechnology and a more negative view on genetic modification.

The TransitionLab Insight Event Series will continue to share results regarding the social environment for innovations across the textile value-chain and thereby help to spark new ideas and broaden perspectives on societal issues associated with bio-based products across BIOTEXFUTURE.

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