Consumers, Public Perceptions and Biotechnology

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  • This paper views the social landscape of biotechnology from the perspective of emerging perceptions and attitudes of consumers to food biotechnology. The information from which consumers' perceptions and attitudes may be discerned comes in several different forms. These include market responses to food biotechnology. Media attention paid to this issue is a second source of information. The attention that is directed toward policy processes and regulatory institutions for food biotechnology, as this is translated through the political system into policy, is another expression of consumers' attitudes. Information from publicly-reported opinion polls and studies of social scientists of attitudes to biotechnology also provides insight on consumers' preceptions. More emphasis is directed at the last two of these expressions of attitudes to food biotechnology in this paper, since at this point of time they are the most readily assess of the various manifestations. Each of the four focal viewpoints of market reactions, media attention, policy processes, and polls and related studies indicates that levels of public and consumer awareness of food biotechnology are increasing. The differences that are seen in the regulation of agricultural biotechnology in different regions of the world suggest that attitudes of different groups of people to biotechnology vary greatly and this is confirmed by opinion polls and related studies. The level of concern about agricultural biotechnology seems to be increasing as public awareness of this new technology increases. Background to this paper is provided through the following overview of divergences in attitudes to food biotechnology, Subsequent discussions move to expressions of increased consumer interest in food biotechnology, differences in approaches to regulation of food biotechnology, the broad features of recent major opinion polls and some studies of consumer's attitudes. The final section of the paper summarises major features of the discussion and suggests some conclusions.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 International