Team:Chalmers Gothenburg/HP/Silver

Chalmers Gothenburg iGEM 2016


Public outreach

Spreading awareness and interest for synthetic biology can be a difficult task due to the complexity of the field and the fast pace of development. Furthermore, the public scepticism towards genetic engineering and GMOs has been quite strong, at least in Sweden. To explore the awareness of some aspects of synthetic biology and the knowledge about it, our team conducted a survey covering the use of GMOs in household products. The survey also covered some basic concepts within biology, such as DNA and where it can be found. We also went a step further in the pursuit of understanding the public position, in our collaboration with the Istanbul Technical University iGEM team

In our collaboration, we designed the layout and questions for our survey to be able to compare the differences in people's opinions and knowledge of GMO. The results could then be compared and an analysis of the differences can be used to devise future strategies for informing the general public on the use of GMOs in both our countries.

The survey

The survey consisted of 15 questions in total with an initial part covering age, gender and education level to aid in analysis of the results. The questions were first written in English and then translated to the native languages of each teams' country (Swedish and Turkish).

For the survey questions, click here ❯❯

Results and discussion

The participation on the survey was good, with 183 and 875 participants in Sweden and Turkey respectively. Demographically, the diversity was not optimal with over 80 percent of the participants having a university education which is not representative of the population as a whole in either Sweden or Turkey. Correction for this will of course have to be part of the analysis. Furthermore, it should be stated that conclusions drawn here are merely the thought and conclusions drawn by our team and are open for interpretation. After statistical analysis in the form of a t-test, the discussed results were shown to be significant.

As a whole, the attitude towards genetically modified organisms (GMOs) was more positive in Sweden with over 80 percent being positive, whereas in Turkey, 72 percent had a negative or sceptical attitude towards GMOs. The sceptical attitude towards GMOs could be linked to the low exposure to the subject within formal education. Results show only 28 percent of the Turkish participants having received any information regarding GMO within an educational setting. Furthermore, the Turkish participants showed a higher level of dissatisfaction with the information that they had received. When asked if GMOs should be used for medical purposes, 24 percent of the Turkish participants disagreed, whereas 3 percent disagreed in the Swedish poll. This result can most likely be attributed towards the general scepticism towards GMO that the Turkish participants showed. Swedish participants did not agree that GMO products should be labeled, in contrast to the Turkish poll where 93 percent agreed that GMO products should be labeled as such. This further illustrates the mistrust that the Turkish participants showed towards GMO products

The mistrust may be due to a low availability of good information regarding GMO, clear information on how it works and what the risks with the technology can be. Since the participants in the Swedish poll consisted mostly of university graduates, which does not represent the majority of the population, their positivity may not reflect the true opinion of the general population. From a Swedish perspective, it is quite clear that the opinions of the general population is not as high as the poll might indicate.

Fig 1. Results for question "Do you want to know more about GMO and genetic engineering?"

Both nations did however show great interest in the field of GMOs and genetic engineering. 80 percent or more were interested in learning more about this field. A prudent strategy for both nations could be to include more information of the basics of genetics and biology in the lower levels of education to increase the level of understanding for life and biological processes.

Further collaborations

To further diversify the speculative design part of our project we collaborated with the iGEM team from the University of southern Denmark. One of their teammates Rikke Friis Bentzon helped contribute one of the stories that was part of the speculative design part of our integrated HP . Furthermore we also participated in a 3 day human practices seminar set up by the danish iGEM team “CosmoCrops” from Copenhagen University. The weekend consisted of ethical discussions and seminars as well as lectures on presentation technique and patenting. iGEM representative Ana Sifuentes also held a lecture that helped prepare us for the Jamboree.