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Public perceptions of transgenic animals

Author(s) : E.F. Einsiedel

Summary :

The field of animal biotechnology has been rapidly expanding and the development of transgenic animals has been part of this research expansion. How the public perceives such developments is an important component of policy considerations. In general, biotechnology applications have been judged with evident hierarchies of acceptability. There appear to be hierarchies in terms of the type of organism being modified, the purpose of the application, the means to attain particular ends, and the nature of the benefits obtained. While general awareness of biotechnology and its specific applications remains low to moderate, this article presents data regarding public acceptance of a variety of applications. These range from the use of animals as disease models and as sources for tissues and organs, to the use of transgenic animals for disease control, for food, and for the production of pharmaceutical and industrial products. Case-by-case judgments are evident, but at the same time, the application of criteria such as the nature of the organism being modified, the animal welfare aspects and the ethical-moral concerns are additional criteria for public judgments. These findings are discussed in the context of their implications for public policy.

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