Baruch Fischhoff and Ilya Fischhoff
Carnegie Mellon University & Princeton University

Surveys eliciting opinions about biotechnology applications suggest the following conclusions. (1) People distinguish among biotechnologies. (2) Different people have different views about biotechnologies. (3) People have limited knowledge about biotechnologies—and know it. (4) People have strong opinions about how biotechnologies are managed. (5) People have complex evaluative schemes—and respond to evidence. As a result, there is little place for sweeping statements regarding “the public’s opinion about biotechnology.” Such statements demean the public and distort policy making by promoting simplistic solutions. More focused research is needed to characterize current and possible views of different publics regarding different current and possible biotechnologies.

Key words: Agricultural biotechnology; risk perception; risk communication; public opinion.