Background

The Science teaching staff, interested in including debates and discussions about controversial matters among their classroom activities, does not have any orientation about what their students think about controversies. In Europe, we have several information sources which allow us to know what citizens know about transgenic foods.
Among them, there are the opinion polls known as Eurobarometers. But the data given by this kind of surveys does not allow us to know why people think the way they do, nor which the scientific or technologic concepts are that they need to create scientifically founded opinions. The Science staff are working in particular conditions, in small groups, and do not have the certainty that they are chosen at random. Therefore, the Eurobarometers data may not match the data given by our students.

Objectives/Hypotheses

To identify the scientific beliefs or of any other type that justify the decision taking over the intake of transgenic foods among incidental samples of students from Austria and Spain.

Methods

The methods used to identify the beliefs of the university students about transgenic foods followed the guidelines for attitude measuring according to the theory of the reasoned action of Fishbein and Ajzen. The methodology used was the open-item and multiple choice surveys. Initially, an initial collection was made gathering the information on the beliefs about the consequences of the intake of transgenic foods with a sample of 268 university students. Once the beliefs are identified and classified according to the arguments used to the decision taking on the transgenic foods intake, the results of two incidental samples of university students from Austria and Spain, of 29 individuals respectively, are compared.

Results

The answers to the question "transgenic foods intake consequences" can be classified between several categories, described as follows:

A) Social consequences
B) Economic consequences
C) Politic consequences
D) Consequences for the consumers
E) Environmental consequences
F) Other type of consequence, among which we find ethical and/or religious.

The comparison between the Austrian and Spanish analyzed sample highlights the following:

1st. According to the general data from the Eurobarometer opinion polls, the Austrian students show more opposition to the transgenic foods intake that the Spanish do.
2nd. Certain common reasoning guidelines can be identified in the previous differences.For example, on the one hand, those in favor of consuming transgenic foods in both national samples coincide in believing probable that the use of transgenic foods will help reducing hunger in the world; on the other hand, those who have no intention of consuming transgenic foods believe in both countries that this unlikely to happen.
3rd. According to the scientific and technological ideas involved in the arguments and, therefore, beliefs that can be corrected in Sciences class, we find the following ones:

- Matters related to health: foods toxicity, illnesses, allergies...
- Matters related to the environmental consequences: genetic contamination, mutations on insects that form plagues...

Conclusions

The use of open and multiple-choice surveys allows us to know the beliefs of the people towards these cases of social-technological public controversies and making it possible to identify the scientific and technological information implied in the arguments over the consequences of the controversies.
Such beliefs can not only be identified, but also corrected in science class. Therefore, knowing them is more useful for the teaching staff that the data given by the opinion polls that just evaluate the grade of agreement or disagreement on the controversial matter.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Beliefs about transgenic foods among Austrian en Spanish students

Carmen Enrique   Universidad de Granada

Jose Cabo   Universidad de Granada

Maria Delicado   Universidad de Granada

Marta Clemente   Universidad de Granada

Background

The Science teaching staff, interested in including debates and discussions about controversial matters among their classroom activities, does not have any orientation about what their students think about controversies. In Europe, we have several information sources which allow us to know what citizens know about transgenic foods.
Among them, there are the opinion polls known as Eurobarometers. But the data given by this kind of surveys does not allow us to know why people think the way they do, nor which the scientific or technologic concepts are that they need to create scientifically founded opinions. The Science staff are working in particular conditions, in small groups, and do not have the certainty that they are chosen at random. Therefore, the Eurobarometers data may not match the data given by our students.

Objectives/Hypotheses

To identify the scientific beliefs or of any other type that justify the decision taking over the intake of transgenic foods among incidental samples of students from Austria and Spain.

Methods

The methods used to identify the beliefs of the university students about transgenic foods followed the guidelines for attitude measuring according to the theory of the reasoned action of Fishbein and Ajzen. The methodology used was the open-item and multiple choice surveys. Initially, an initial collection was made gathering the information on the beliefs about the consequences of the intake of transgenic foods with a sample of 268 university students. Once the beliefs are identified and classified according to the arguments used to the decision taking on the transgenic foods intake, the results of two incidental samples of university students from Austria and Spain, of 29 individuals respectively, are compared.

Results

The answers to the question "transgenic foods intake consequences" can be classified between several categories, described as follows:

A) Social consequences
B) Economic consequences
C) Politic consequences
D) Consequences for the consumers
E) Environmental consequences
F) Other type of consequence, among which we find ethical and/or religious.

The comparison between the Austrian and Spanish analyzed sample highlights the following:

1st. According to the general data from the Eurobarometer opinion polls, the Austrian students show more opposition to the transgenic foods intake that the Spanish do.
2nd. Certain common reasoning guidelines can be identified in the previous differences.For example, on the one hand, those in favor of consuming transgenic foods in both national samples coincide in believing probable that the use of transgenic foods will help reducing hunger in the world; on the other hand, those who have no intention of consuming transgenic foods believe in both countries that this unlikely to happen.
3rd. According to the scientific and technological ideas involved in the arguments and, therefore, beliefs that can be corrected in Sciences class, we find the following ones:

- Matters related to health: foods toxicity, illnesses, allergies...
- Matters related to the environmental consequences: genetic contamination, mutations on insects that form plagues...

Conclusions

The use of open and multiple-choice surveys allows us to know the beliefs of the people towards these cases of social-technological public controversies and making it possible to identify the scientific and technological information implied in the arguments over the consequences of the controversies.
Such beliefs can not only be identified, but also corrected in science class. Therefore, knowing them is more useful for the teaching staff that the data given by the opinion polls that just evaluate the grade of agreement or disagreement on the controversial matter.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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