Biotechnology can be subdivided into application domains such as green (plant), red (medical), and white (industrial) biotechnology. In the context of green biotechnology, GMOs are a central theme. The application of GMOs is controversial and public opinion is rather negative towards GMOs. According to the  Eurobarometer survey the general attitude towards green biotechnology is negative in Europe, although attitude differs between countries and over time. In Flanders (the Dutch speaking part of Belgium), there  was a revival of the GMO-debate as the result of the destruction of a potato field experiment in 2011. Apart from the limited info available from the Eurobarometer study, no empirical research has thus far been set up about attitudes towards biotechnology in the Flemish context, especially in relation to green biotechnology, e.g., the case of GMOs. Our present study evaluated the attitude towards green biotechnology in a randomly stratified sample of 4363 adult Flemish citizens (stratification variables: age and educational background). Secondly, their knowledge was measured and linked to their attitudes. A subjective (what people think they know), as well as an objective (what they actually know) knowledge score was calculated. The latter was based on a test consisting of true/false and short answer questions regarding genetics, biotechnology and commercialization of GM food. Attitudes towards green biotechnology were tested on the base of reactions towards green biotech applications (5-point Likert scale). The results point at a rather positive attitude of Flemish citizens towards plant biotechnology (M=3.80, SD=.76, max5). In contrast, the knowledge of Flemish citizens about biotechnology seems very poor (M=9.69, SD=3.95, max20). Knowledge hardly predicts attitudes (F(1,4360)= 90,58, p< 0.01; R2= .020). These findings are not in line with current literature where a positive relationship between knowledge and attitudes is stressed. Our paradoxical findings can be explained by the fact that in Flanders, the overall attitude towards green biotechnology is positive. Although the media suggest a clear opposition against GMOs, our data show that the general audience is rather indifferent and even supportive of GMOs. This implies that at a theoretical level, knowledge might be important, but might not be considered as the only factor affecting attitudes. This has clear implications for GMO related campaigns.

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Attitudes of the general public towards genetically modified organisms (GMOS)
The paradoxical relationship between knowledge and attitudes

Jasmien Maes   Ghent University, Belgium

Godelieve Gheysen   Ghent University, Belgium

Martin Valcke   Ghent University, Belgium

Biotechnology can be subdivided into application domains such as green (plant), red (medical), and white (industrial) biotechnology. In the context of green biotechnology, GMOs are a central theme. The application of GMOs is controversial and public opinion is rather negative towards GMOs. According to the  Eurobarometer survey the general attitude towards green biotechnology is negative in Europe, although attitude differs between countries and over time. In Flanders (the Dutch speaking part of Belgium), there  was a revival of the GMO-debate as the result of the destruction of a potato field experiment in 2011. Apart from the limited info available from the Eurobarometer study, no empirical research has thus far been set up about attitudes towards biotechnology in the Flemish context, especially in relation to green biotechnology, e.g., the case of GMOs. Our present study evaluated the attitude towards green biotechnology in a randomly stratified sample of 4363 adult Flemish citizens (stratification variables: age and educational background). Secondly, their knowledge was measured and linked to their attitudes. A subjective (what people think they know), as well as an objective (what they actually know) knowledge score was calculated. The latter was based on a test consisting of true/false and short answer questions regarding genetics, biotechnology and commercialization of GM food. Attitudes towards green biotechnology were tested on the base of reactions towards green biotech applications (5-point Likert scale). The results point at a rather positive attitude of Flemish citizens towards plant biotechnology (M=3.80, SD=.76, max5). In contrast, the knowledge of Flemish citizens about biotechnology seems very poor (M=9.69, SD=3.95, max20). Knowledge hardly predicts attitudes (F(1,4360)= 90,58, p< 0.01; R2= .020). These findings are not in line with current literature where a positive relationship between knowledge and attitudes is stressed. Our paradoxical findings can be explained by the fact that in Flanders, the overall attitude towards green biotechnology is positive. Although the media suggest a clear opposition against GMOs, our data show that the general audience is rather indifferent and even supportive of GMOs. This implies that at a theoretical level, knowledge might be important, but might not be considered as the only factor affecting attitudes. This has clear implications for GMO related campaigns.

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