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Public attitudes to industrial biotechnology

This report reviews of information on the views and values of the public on industrial biotechnology available at the time of writing, June 2015.

Executive summary

Public opinion on industrial biotechnology is broadly positive but fluctuates in response to international events and technological developments. There is little recent in-depth research – the only source published since 2013 is the Eurobarometer survey.

• Industrial biotechnology is a complex and nuanced sector, comprising many different products and technologies. This is reflected in the public opinion of it, which is highly dependent on context, the technology under consideration, and the question asked.

• While there is awareness of the potential risks, the overall attitude to industrial biotechnology is positive. Public scepticism about wide-scale adoption of biotechnology is often linked with mistrust of government and industry.

• Opinion on biotechnology has been characterised as a ‘red/green divide’, with ‘red’ medical applications viewed more favourably than ‘green’ agricultural ones. Public opinion is more nuanced - people are not uncritically positive or negative about either technology.

• There is concern about the use of bioenergy. This is partly due to the perception that it is related to fossil fuels, but also awareness of the implications of land use for fuel crops.

• Research on public opinion on biofuels has looked at first and second generation biofuels – traditional crops that are processed into biofuels. But little is known about public opinion on the emerging third and fourth generations of biofuels derived from algal technologies, or genetically engineered plants.


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