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Public perceptions of plant biotechnology--a focus group study

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Focus groups were conducted with plant biotechnology researchers, active environmental group members, university students and farmers in central Michigan. The study's objective was to gain a greater understanding of the factors that influence how plant biotechnology and genetically modified foods are viewed by these groups. Participants demonstrated a complex mental picture of plant biotechnology, including many related environmental, socio-economic and value-driven issues. The participants, including those generally supportive of the new technology, identified issues warranting further attention, including the issues of choice, control, equity, trust and scientific uncertainty. Participants with an ecocentric worldview perceived plant biotechnology as symptomatic of Western society's approach to solving problems through technological fixes. Participants believed that a meaningful public debate of the new technology had yet to occur in the US, but was warranted. Impediments to such a debate include scientific illiteracy, issue complexity, lack of public awareness and a lack of industry and regulatory agency openness or willingness to engage the public.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Resource Development, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA

Publication date: August 1, 2003

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