Public attitudes towards the use of transgenic forest trees: a crosscountry pilot survey
Information on public attitudes towards the use of transgenic trees in forest plantations is important in the decision-making process and policy implementation for safe tree development, particularly at the EU level. In Europe, the use of transgenic forest trees is very limited and therefore such information is completely lacking. To address this issue within the FP0905 European COST Action on the Biosafety of Transgenic Forest Trees a pioneer cross-country pilot survey on public attitudes towards the use of transgenic forest trees was conducted using young population as a focus group. This was decided mainly because this focus group represents the future consumers, policy makers or developers. Specifically, the survey aimed to: i) assess the level of young peoples knowledge about transgenic forest trees, ii) identify issues of concern to them regarding the cultivation of transgenic forest trees and iii) explore whether they approve or disapprove of the use of transgenic forest trees in plantations. Purposive sampling was performed and university students of different disciplines were included in the research as sampling subjects. In total, 1868 completed questionnaires from 15 European and non-European countries were analyzed. The young educated people that took part in the survey appeared to approve of the use of transgenic forest trees in plantations and would be willing to buy forest transgenic products. The potential loss of biodiversity due to a risk of gene flow between transgenic and wild trees was seen as the safety issue of most concern when considering the commercial release of transgenic forest trees. However, a serious perceived lack of knowledge about potential benefits and risks of the cultivation of transgenic forest trees was recorded in most of the countries. K-means clustering was implemented on respondents positive responses to identify potential country patterns. No differences in patterns of public attitude towards the acceptance of the commercial growing of transgenic forest trees were observed between European and non-European countries. Extended research on public attitude issues towards the use of transgenic forest trees is strongly recommended as a basis for policy implementation on safe tree development.