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‘Ambivalent' individual preferences towards biotechnology in the European Union: products or processes?

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Abstract:

Significant ambivalence is found when examining the explanatory dimensions of attitudes towards biotechnology in the European Union; individuals' decision—making is influenced by their perception of significant benefits and risks as well as moral concerns. In quantitatively analyzing the determinants of attitudes, we argue that it might be misleading to interpret attitudes towards new biotechnology applications without taking into account the existence of significant ambivalence in revealed preferences. This paper empirically examines the magnitude and the impact of ambivalence in explaining support for two specific biotech applications (Genetically Modified (GM) food and GM medicines). The data employed are from the 1999 Eurobarometer Survey 52.1. Results reveal that although between 35 and 45% of respondents display ambivalent attitudes towards biotechnology applications, ambivalence primarily affects less supportive attitudes, and this result seems robust among specific biotech applications. Ambivalence is expected to continue to play a key role in determining individual attitudes as long as available information continues to be limited. Furthermore, ambivalence, as well as attitudes to biotechnology applications, seems to be associated with the dimensions of the technology itself. Therefore, in the design of risk communication policies, decision makers should ensure that individuals are well informed if public perceptions are to be taken into account in public policy formation.

Keywords: ambivalence; biotechnology; risk perceptions

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1366987042000275091

Affiliations: LSE Health and Social Care, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, UK

Publication date: June 1, 2005

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