Harvey S. James, Jr. and Leonie A. Marks
University of Missouri

During the late 1990s, negative events related to biotechnology were reported in the UK media. According to the trust asymmetry hypothesis, such events should cause public trust in biotechnology risk managers to decline rapidly and rebound slowly. Using Eurobarometer data we show that public trust in risk managers declined from 1996 to 1999 but rebounded sharply between 1999 and 2002. Using canonical discriminant analysis we find that trust is correlated with knowledge of science, as well as perceptions of benefits and risks. We also identify distinct categories of people who do not trust–people who distrust risk managers but trust other sources of biotechnology information, people who trust nobody, and people who are uncertain about their trust of risk managers. We argue that attention should be placed not only on understanding how to improve trust but also on the nature and characteristics of people who distrust risk managers of biotechnology.

Key words: Biotechnology, distrust, knowledge of science, public support, public trust, risk managers.