‘Objection’ mapping in determining group and individual concerns regarding genetic engineering

Agriculture and Human Values 14 (1):67-79 (1997)


Whilst there has been much debateregarding the importance of public acceptance ofgenetic engineering and its applications, there isevidence to indicate that objections to the technologyare likely to focus on specific applications of thetechnology, rather than genetic engineering per se.Thus it becomes important to examine the extent ofobjections associated with individual applications,rather than to assess public feeling regarding thetechnology overall. Survey data were collected from200 respondents regarding their objections to generalapplications of genetic engineering. Similar objectiondata were collected from 200 different respondents,who were presented with specific applications withmore obvious tangible benefits. Overall patterns ofobjection to different applications were identifiedusing a novel method of objection mapping, inconjunction with analysis of variance to identifyindividual differences in the samples. For generalapplications, the results indicate that mostrespondents object less to applications involvingplants and microorganisms than to those involvinganimals or human genetic material. Individualdifferences in objection focus on applicationsinvolving animals or human genetic material, withwomen and those who are very concerned with theenvironment having greatest objections to theseapplications. Individual differences tend to reducewhen specific applications are used as stimuli,although the focus of concern is still on applicationsinvolving animals and human genetic material. However,gender differences were not statistically significant,and those respondents who have high levels ofenvironmental concern are differentiated by increasedobjections to large-scale agricultural applications.It is argued that effective communication regardingthe technology should focus on specific applications,and address issues of environmental impact within thecontext of these applications, if the public is tomake an informed choice regarding their acceptance ofthe products of the technology.

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