Biotechnology and European Public Opinion
In his article "The rise of Biotechnology in agriculture" Guy Paillotin, President of the Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA), sketched the progress in development and application of these techniques and the hopes that it fosters. We know nevertheless that the diffusion of new technology depends in part on a complex social process, and that acceptance or rejection are linked to the fears and hopes a new technique triggers in the population.
This month, Daniel Boy offers us an analysis of European opinion surveys which focused on applications of biotechnology in domains such as food and drug production. Respondents included a range of people who are not informed equally but who, depending on their sex, age and nationality, are generally speaking more or less favorable to technological progress.
The European survey which is the basis of his analysis reveals some permanent features such as, for example, the contrast of attitudes towards scientific and technological progress between Northern and Southern Europe. It also suggests that while there may be no massive rejection of biotechnology in principle, there is some genuine reserve when it comes to transgenetic cultures. This could present a handicap to Europe within the context of global competition which should be quite harsh.