Strategic approaches to informing the public about biotechnology in Latin America|
Traynor, Patricia L.; Adonis, Marta & Gil, Lionel
The benefits of today's biotechnology products are not evident to consumers. The public will accept biotechnology only when individuals decide for themselves that biotec products will contribute to their personal well-being. To make such a decision, people will need greater awareness and understanding of how biotechnology will affect the environment, human health, local and national economies, and the well-being of society. A low level of awareness and understanding about biotechnology is characteristic of Latin America and the Caribbean countries, as elsewhere, efforts to remedy poor public perception often seem inadequate and do not reflect a well-designed strategy.
In order to improve the understanding of the biotechnology and their human applications, a strategic plan for public communications is required. Specific objectives for this initiative may include: (1) to make evident to decision makers that modern biotechnology can be an effective tool for increasing agricultural productivity, and thereby economic growth, without imposing unacceptable risk to the environment or human and animal health; (2) to enable members of the public to make informed decisions about appropriate uses of biotechnology by providing accurate information about benefits, risks and impacts; or (3) to incorporate modern biotechnology into science curricula for secondary schools, university and college students, and agriculture extension officers.
A variety of specialized expertise, including communication specialists, technical writers, graphic artists and illustrators to design information materials and conduct training is needed to implement this. Ideally, members bring expertise in biotechnology and biosafety, public communications and project management. The plan will need to identify scientists and technical experts who can provide expertise in science writing for general audiences, advertising, graphic arts, public opinion polling and media communications. These people can provide basic information about the techniques of modern biotechnology; the products now available and those being developed; what is known about the nature, probability and consequences of potential risks. Governments, industry, universities and media must play an important role to improve public perception about biotechnology, this is a requirement to develop biotechnology in the Region.
biotechnology, GMOs, public perception.