Multiple aspects of unnaturalness: are cisgenic crops perceived as being more natural and more acceptable than transgenic crops?
- 811 Downloads
In Europe the use of genetically modified (GM) crops in food production has so far failed to gain wide public approval. Ordinary people are concerned about issues not covered by the existing regulation, including usefulness and unnaturalness. In response, particularly to worries about unnaturalness, biotechnologists have suggested that inserted genes should derive only from the plant itself, or from close relatives. This paper examines public perceptions of these so-called ‘cisgenic crops’ and asks whether the public shares the idea that they are less unnatural and thus more acceptable than transgenic plants. Using five focus group interviews, we identified five lines of argument about naturalness with a bearing on the assessment of cisgenic crops as well as GM crops in general. The paper concludes that, depending on perceptions of naturalness, some people would agree that cisgenic crops are more acceptable than their transgenic counterparts. The finding that ordinary people value different aspects of naturalness may be relevant to a broader audience than just those interested in gene technology. It cautions against a simplistic interpretation of what counts as ‘natural’.
KeywordsNaturalness Public attitudes GMOs Cisgenesis Focus groups
This work was funded by the Danish Food Industry Agency.
- European Commission. 2010. Proposal for amending directive 2001/18/EC as regards the possibility for the member states to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs in their territory—COM(2010) 375 final.Google Scholar
- Gaskell, G., S. Stares, A. Allansdottir, N. Allum, P. Castro, Y. Esmer, C. Fischler, J. Jackson, N. Kronberger, J. Hampel, N. Mejlgaard, A. Quintanilha, A. Rammer, G. Revuelta, P. Stoneman, H. Torgersen, and W. Wagner. 2010. Europeans and biotechnology in 2010: Winds of change? Report for the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research.Google Scholar
- Gaskell, G., N. Allum, M. Bauer, J. Durant, A. Allansdottir, H. Bonfadelli, D. Boy, S. de Chevigné, B. Fjastad, J.M. Guttling, J. Hampel, E. Jelsøe, J.C. Jesuino, M. Kohring, N. Kronberger, C. Midden, T.H. Nielsen, A. Przestalski, T. Rusanen, G. Sakellaris, H. Torgersen, T. Twardowski, and W. Wagner. 2000. Biotechnology and the European public. Nature Biotechnology 18(9): 935–938.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Nickson, T.E., and M.J. Horak. 2006. Assessing familiarity: The role of plant characterization. In Proceedings of the ninth international symposium on the biosafety of genetically modified organisms, ed. A. Roberts, 76–80. Saskatoon, Canada: International Society for Biosafety Research.Google Scholar
- Nielsen, A.P., J. Lassen, and P. Sandøe. 2005. Involving the public: Participatory methods and democratic ideals. In Biotechnology ethics: An introduction, ed. L. Landeweerd, L.M. Houdebine, and R. Termeulen, 315–325. Firenze: IAAS-EDAP.Google Scholar
- Torgersen, H., J. Hampel, M. von Bergmann-Wienberg, E. Bridgeman, J. Durant, E. Einsiedel, B. Fjæstad, G. Gaskell, P. Grabner, P. Hieber, E. Jelsøe, J. Lassen, A. Marouda-Chathoulis, T.H. Nielsen, T. Rusanen, G. Sakellaris, F. Seifert, C. Smink, T. Twardowski, and M. Kamara. 2002. Promise, problems and proxies: Twenty-five years of debate and regulation in Europe. In Biotechnology: The making of a global controversy, ed. M.W. Bauer, and G. Gaskell, 21–94. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar