Europeans and biotechnology, increasingly close

2006/07/09 Galarraga Aiestaran, Ana - Elhuyar Zientzia

For the sixth consecutive year, the Eurobarometer collects the opinion of Europeans on biotechnology. 25,000 people (about 1,000 in each country) have been asked about stem cell research, genetically modified crops, conventional and organic agriculture, nanotechnology, etc. The answers point to the fact that more and more Europeans see biotechnology with good eyes.
Twenty-five thousand people have answered the questions, although the majority do not care about the subject.

However, according to the color of biotechnology, red biotechnology (medicine) and white (industry) are widely recognized, while in most countries the population is opposed to green biotechnology (agriculture). Therefore, the exception is the favorable provision for genetically modified foods, although in some countries they are more favorable than in others: Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Czech Republic and Lithuania.

25,000 opinions in two words

The application of biotechnology generates ethical doubts in medicine.

In general, Europeans are aware of the influence of biotechnology on everyday life. Since 1999, recognition of the influence of biotechnology has been steadily increasing. Before, however, the trend was different, since from 1991 to 1999 it gradually decreased. It is now at the same level as in 1991.

By subjects, nanotechnology has been the subject that has grown the most. On the other hand, nuclear energy is more accepted than before, but there are still more people against it going, even in France.

is the country in which more people are in favor

Nanotechnology, pharmacogenetics and gene therapy, what trio! They are timid words, but lately they appear frequently in the media, and it seems that this influences their opinion, since most Europeans consider that the three are valid for society and ethically acceptable. In any case, they consider that gene therapy can be dangerous, but they are willing to take that risk because potential benefits are more than possible risks.

Many doubts and clear attitudes

Most Europeans do not see genetically modified foods with good eyes.

Like gene therapy, biofarmacia also generates conflicting opinions. Biofarmacy uses biotechnology in agriculture to obtain drugs. In almost all countries there are more people who oppose it, but ask for strict control.

Stem cell research generates even more doubts and controversies. For example, in countries of the Baltic, Slovenia, Malta and Ireland, one in three has not dared to comment. It is clear that in this topic ethical and moral problems are mixed. The favorable ones also demand a good regulation and control of the investigations. However, lately the favorable attitude is being strengthened, especially because more and more people believe it can be a way to cure very serious diseases.

At the other end, the application of biotechnology generates much less reticence in other industries. It also seems good to subsidize research on biofuels and bioplastics; more than half of them say they could be willing to use biofuels and bioplastics, even if they are more expensive than conventional ones.

The Eurobarometer survey also mentions many other topics, but to finish we will highlight two issues. On the one hand, most people recognize that they are not very interested in biotechnology (although they have opined about it). On the other hand, it is not true that Americans have a better opinion on biotechnology than Europeans, but there is a similar position here and there, except on two issues: there they accept genetically modified foods without problems and here we have opinion about nanotechnology than there.

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