Archived news articles - 2002

GMAC, 30 May 2002

Survey reveals Singaporeans’ knowledge and attitudes towards genetic modification

A nation-wide survey found that 1 out of 2 Singaporeans have heard of the term “genetic modification” and that majority of these people would be willing to consume such foods if they offer tangible benefits like improved taste, nutrition and appearance.

A first ever nation-wide survey aimed at investigating the knowledge, attitude and perception of genetic modification technology among Singaporeans was conducted in May 2001. Data was collected through interviews at public places such as shopping centres and MRT stations on 600 Singaporean adults in different parts of Singapore.

This survey was commissioned by the Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC) and was carried out by the National University of Singapore.

The survey found that while 48% of Singaporeans have heard of the term “genetic modification”, however, only about one-fifth understood the terminology and the basic concepts about genes. Certain misconceptions still persist.

About 28% of respondents thought that eating genetically modified foods could change a person’s genes and 32% of respondents thought that ordinary soy beans do not contain genes while genetically modified ones do.

Among those that have heard of the term “genetic modification”, attitudes towards genetically modified foods were favorable. Almost two-third of those who have heard of genetic modification would be willing to buy genetically modified foods if they offer tangible benefits such as better appearance, lower price or improved taste.

As much as 82% of respondents would be willing to buy genetically modified foods if they were more nutritious. This is despite that 74% of the respondents agreed that scientists had not studied the long-term risks of eating genetically modified foods.

Most of the people interviewed reported learning about genetically modified foods from media such as newspapers, TV, magazines and radio. The top five sources of information on health, science and technology that Singaporeans would believe in are the government, doctors, nutritionists, educational institutes and GMAC.

It was also found that males, Singaporeans with higher educational levels and those who access the internet frequently tend to have a higher awareness of genetic modification technology. However, those with higher education tend to believe less in the media. Religious background and income do not make significant differences to attitudes.

“The survey provided valuable insights into the knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of genetic modification technology among Singaporeans. GMAC intends to use the results of this survey to design public education programmes that will help heighten the awareness of Singaporeans on genetically modified foods and products”, said Associate Professor Lee Sing Kong, Chairman of the GMAC Subcommittee on Public Awareness.

In the coming months, the GMAC Subcommittee on Public Awareness would be planning a series of activities such as public forums to educate the public on the basic science of genetic modification and address misconceptions and concerns about genetically modified foods and products.

Issued by GMAC

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