Eight out of ten South Africans have no knowledge about biotechnology and well over half have never even heard of the term before. Despite this lack of understanding, an average of 57% indicated that different applications of biotechnology should continue.
So say the results of the most comprehensive survey on public perceptions of biotechnology undertaken in South Africa to date. This national study involved a sample of 7000 adults aged 16 and older in households geographically spread across the country's nine provinces, including urban and rural communities of all race groups. The sample was designed to represent the total adult population, more than 29 million adults, of South Africa. Respondents were interviewed in person in the language of their choice.
The survey was undertaken by the Public Understanding of Biotechnology (PUB) Programme in collaboration with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). The aim was to "find out what people think, feel and understand about biotechnology".
Prepared with input from national and international survey experts, the survey included adapted questions from polls undertaken elsewhere, to enable a comparison of South African public perceptions internationally.
The PUB Programme is now working on complementing this study with more in-depth, qualitative studies through focal groups to investigate people's knowledge, perceptions and attitudes in more detail.
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The survey results
Public Understanding of Biotechnology in South Africa
Note: the PUB questions asked were a part of a larger questionnaire and only the PUB questions are specified here.
The PUB programme is currently busy with preparations for the next mass survey expected to be rolled out in the 2012/13 financial year.
Young Science Communicators Writing Initiative:
In an initiative to offer a platform to exercise skills in science communication, PUB commissioned a group of young scientists to write popular articles on various topics relating to biotechnology applications. Read their on articles on topics including sustainable energy, aquaculture, palaeogenomics, and more... Click here to view.
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Shedding Light on Human Genetic Diversity
A paper detailing the the Southern African Genome Sequencing Project and its results was published in the journal Nature.
A range of teaching aids are available in a number of different languages
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