1/30/2015 @ 3:08PM 2,546 views

New Pew Survey Shows The Public Disagrees With Scientists On GMOs, Climate Change

A new Pew survey compares the attitudes of 3,748 scientists (members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science) to those of 2,002 members of the general public and reveals scientists are much less fearful of GMOs than are the general public and more concerned about those human activities that contribute to global warming.

On some issues, such as the value of the space station, the scientists and members of the public nearly agree, but on others, the difference is striking. 88% of scientists think GMOs are generally safe to eat, compared to 37% of the general public. Asked whether climate change is mostly caused by human activity, 87% of scientists agree but only 50% of the public at large.
What’s fascinating is that Americans didn’t seem all that concerned with genetic engineering until it got a scary name – GMOs.

Back in the 1990s, genetically modified corn was being grown but people were afraid of cloning. Remember Dolly the sheep?

When I wrote about that story for the Philadelphia Inquirer, people thought it was a sign of the apocalypse. There’s a sense of unease that many non-scientists associated with biotechnology and in this century, much of that fear has been focused on GMOs.

By the same token, people didn’t worry that much about countries that stockpiled chemical weapons but they cared a lot about WMD.

People also tend to worry about additives with three latter acronyms – DDT, BPA, PCBs. And as the Weather Channel proved this week, Juno is a scary name. People fear gluten and though it doesn’t sound scary, it does sound fattening, as if it might expand your gluteus maximus.

By contrast, global warming morphed into the more benign “climate change.” As other surveys have shown, people are more likely to say they agree climate change is real, but they are much less prone to be afraid of it or want to do anything about it. Would they feel differently if we called it Juno, or maybe the Juno Outcome, to describe the predictions if we go about business as usual?