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Public opinion

We carried out a survey of 5 questions to probe the public opinion about synthetic biology. To create sample variation, we interviewed 45 people from different age groups and backgrounds. In general, most of the interviewees didn't object against this new domain in science. Although only few of them could correctly define "synthetic biology", they agree that researchers must be able to explore the field. Nevertheless, they insist on the necessity of a controlling system which insures safety during the research process. Before the bacteria are used outside of a lab, the risks should be minimized.

We asked the subjects what type of research in synthetic biology should be allowed. Most people have no problem with bacteria in their environment designed to solve major issues in human life. They insist that the synthetic bacteria must change the users' quality of life and it must be financially manageable for everyone. Some interviewed persons agree to the exploration of synthetic biology, but are hesitant to allow the bacteria outside of the laboratory or the closed environment of an industrial facility. Although there are still a few people who object against research, most of the interviewees are in favour of further study. Provided that a socially relevant goal is pursued and not just a luxury issue.

The last question of the survey asked the respondent if their opinion about synthetic biology could be more negative because they were not familiar with the subject. Most people agreed that 'not knowing' influences their opinion. From the survey it became clear that the majority of the interviewees miss an independent communication about the matter in a comprehensible language. The finding of such an independent and neutral organ to take on this task, however, remains a challenge. Some respondents are also aware of this issue. They fear that economic and marketing arguments such as available funding or reputation, are bound to have an influence on the institution's opinion.

Modifying organisms should … Male Female
…not be allowed 12% 4%
…only be allowed when it solves an issue 52% 64%
…only be allowed when the organisms don’t come in contact with humans 24% 21%
…be allowed at any time 12% 11%

Male Female
Would you use the following products? yes yes
* Saffron produced by bacteria 35% 46%
* A drug with bacteria releasing the active substance 76% 96%
* An air freshener spreading an odor produced by bacteria 53% 21%
* Fuel produced by bacteria 82% 93%

It appears that people don't think high of our project. But it's important to remark that our feedback system controlling the concentration of a substance can be used in other applications (e.g. a bioreactor).


We helped TU Delft with their survey on reductionism in synthetic biology. Follow the results on their wiki.

We completed the survey from the University of Valencia.