INTRODUCTION HUMAN PRACTICES
We first did a literature search for a better understanding of the problem we want to confront and how it affects the world (described in Integrated Human Practices). As our project affects worldwide, it is important to make aware about the glycerol environmental problem. Therefore, UPO-Sevilla Team has made a huge effort on Human Practices activities.
As we genetically modify microorganisms to help solve this problem, we wanted to know what people think about Genetically Modified Organisms (OMGs) (described below).
We know people are not concerned about this problem, so we wanted to explain it to them and how we want to help solving it. We then decided to participate in diverse events and show our project. We participated in the Science Fair, where we had our own stand, in the Science Week of the Universidad Pablo de Olavide, where we explained it to students from High School, and in the European Researchers Night, in Sevilla. Also, it is important for us to encourage future generations to innovate in Sciences and Research. We then decided to give practices classes in the lab to High School Students. We explained them our project and we taught them how we could do it by showing them how to do some the main activities in Synthetic Biology: extraction of plasmids, digestions, electrophoresis and transformation. We also wanted to know what researchers with experience think about our project. For that, we participated in the XI Meeting of Molecular Microbiology of Sociedad Española de Microbiología (SEM).
Finally, we attended a meeting of the three Spanish iGEM teams that participate this year. Thank to that meeting, we have made some good friends and it was rewarding for all of us to discuss the projects.
All these activities are described in Gold and Engagement sections of Human Practices.
REPORT: OPINION SURVEY ON GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS
This survey project is part of the human practices work by the iGEM Team UPO-Sevilla. In collaboration with other teams from all over the world, our goal is to analyze the public opinion on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOS), due to the increasing importance of this field in the current world, and to the strong impact of it on biotechnology and synthetic biology.
This report aims to analyze the opinion and knowledge of people from Spain about GMOs. The results can be easily compared to the reports done by teams from other countries, providing useful information about the geographical, political and cultural differences regarding this topic.
Total number of Spanish people that participated in this survey: 94.
In general, we found that most participants have heard about GMOs and have some knowledge about them. Even some of the definitions were accurate, and some people mentioned that they present some risks. The results obtained by SVCE_Chennai (India) also confirm this (about 93% of people had some knowledge about GMOs).
About 43.4% of people had a positive or very positive opinion on GMOs, and only about 8.4% had a bad or really bad opinion. 48.1% of participants did not have a clear opinion or they preferred not to answer, which indicates a strong indifference or lack of knowledge about GMOs (Figure 1). The results in India indicate that more than a half of the participants have a good opinion about GMOs, which is slightly superior compared to Spain.
Figure 1. Circular diagram of the opinion about GMO with the percentages of the answers.
When asked about the threat that GMOs could be for human health, 16.8% percent of people answered that they are or could be dangerous. 36.1% said that they do not present risks, and 42.2% said that it depends, which shows again that a great part of the population feels insecure when giving their opinion about GMOs (Figure 2A). When the same question was answered about the environment, the feeling that GMOs are dangerous is higher (31.4%), while only 19.3% of respondents indicated that they are safe. 38.6% said that it depends (Figure 2B). They survey by SVCE_Chennai also shows that there is a lack of trust when it comes to environmental issues, and they point out the importance of having safe and eco-friendly GM products.
Figure 2. Circular diagrams of the opinion about the risks of the GMO for the human health (A) and for the environment (B) with the percentages of the answers.
After that, we presented some GMO-derived products or organisms, and asked if these are good or bad for the human being, giving points from 1 (very bad) to 5 (really good). These products are insulin, the vaccine against hepatitis B, golden rice and interferon. The opinion was really positive for all of these products; they got respectively 4.22, 4.12, 4 and 4.13 points out of 5. The acceptance of golden rice, although high, is slightly less strong, and this could be due to the fact that its use is different (food) and not as popular as the other products. For the Indian survey, up to 89% of people had a positive opinion about insulin, and also accepted the other products
Finally, the participants were asked whether they had changed their opinion or not after this survey, and up to 25% of them had or may have a new opinion after a short thinking.
This survey shows that the number of participants who have a positive opinion on GMOs is higher than those who reject them. However, the disagreement is higher when it comes to considerate the risks that they present for human health, and, especially, environment.
Astonishingly, the acceptance of common GMO-derived products is much higher (near 100%). This indicates the applications and uses of GMOs are accepted, but there is a fear or mistrust when the words “GMO” are directly mentioned and people relate it to science and genome modification. There is also a high percentage of people (more than 40%), which do not seem to have enough information, or a solid opinion on them. This explains that around a quarter of the participants changed their opinion after these few questions.
Therefore, we think that it is important to improve the communication and information available to people about GMOs. This would help people understand how they are made and the true risks that they could have for human health and the environment, allowing them to use new and firm arguments to support their opinion.