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College graduates less likely to back biotech...
Survey: Biotech Support Down Among Women and the Educated

(19 June - Cropchoice News) -- An important new government survey released today concludes that Americans with a college education are growing more likely to oppose genetic engineering. The study also concludes that skepticism about genetic engineering is stronger among women than men. Researchers polled 1,882 adult Americans in the National Science Foundation's Science and Engineering Indicators 2000 study, which is prepared for the President and Congress every two years.

Calling it an "interesting trend", NSF reports that skepticism about the benefits of genetic engineering is rising among Americans who are college graduates. The percentage of college graduates who believe the harmful results of biotech are equal to or greater than the benefits has risen to 45%, up by 7% since 1985 when pollsters first asked GMO questions.

The opposite is true among groups with different educational backgrounds. According to the study, approval of genetic engineering is up among those who did not graduate from high school. Since 1995, those without a high school diploma who take a positive view has risen from 29% to 37%. High school graduates have stayed about the same, with 42% backing benefits of GMOs. The study says "Although positive attitudes seemed to have increased (or stayed the same) between 1995 and 1999 for those without bachelorís degrees, the opposite seems to be true for those with degrees."

Science and Engineering Indicators 2000 also concludes that "Women are considerably more likely than men to believe the harms [of genetic engineering] outweigh the benefits." 62% of American women (as opposed to 50% of men) thought genetic engineering was more harmful than good or that its benefits were only equal to costs. The number of opposing women is up by 6% since 1985.

The findings contrast those of some US agriculture surveys which have suggested that the more educated the farmer, the more likely he is to buy biotech seed. The results pose interesting questions for biotech promoters. With women in charge of so many US food dollars, their more skeptical attitude about genetic engineering may influence consumer decisions. And with opposition to biotech slowly rising among the educated, the pendulum appears to be swinging in the opposite direction of industry's public relations efforts like whybiotech.com.

The National Science Foundation's researchers asked questions about genetic engineering in general, including animals and medical uses; but avoided mentioning the controversial issue of cloning in their interviews. According to the report "Had the interviewers specifically mentioned cloning, the reaction from respondents may have been different, but the survey question did not include that word."

For more information, visit the study's webpage at http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind00/access/toc.htm

SOURCE: National Science Foundation