Janet Grice, M.K. Wegener, L.M. Romanach, and S. Paton
The University of Queensland
P. Bonaventura and S. Garrad
BSES Limited

Current community attitudes towards genetically modified (GM) plants are quite negative, with the sugar industry having appar- ently accepted the view that sugar from genetically modified cane is regarded so badly by consumers at the present time that it could not be marketed successfully. In other industries, genet- ically modified cultivars that are environmentally friendly and not designed for human consumption (e.g., Bt cotton) have been accepted reasonably well. One of the main causes of public concern about genetic engineering has been the lack of infor- mation about the process and the types of products, particularly nonfood products, that can be developed. This paper describes exploratory research in the sugar industry in Queensland that attempted to determine the effect of providing information on gene technology on the attitudes of cane growers, their part- ners, and community members and the types of genetic modifi- cation that was most acceptable to them. Attitudes to genetic engineering of sugarcane, in general, were judged to become more positive, and the real concerns over introduction of the technology were revealed. Those applications that were most acceptable were also identified.

Key words: Biotechnology, consumer attitudes, focus groups, genetic engineering, transgenic cane.