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Ethical perception of modern biotechnology

L Amin
NAA Azlan
H Hashim
J Ahmad


Past studies have shown that successful development and commercialisation of modern biotechnology products depends heavily on public acceptance. Of the many variables studied by earlier researchers, it was found that moral acceptability was an important predictor of support for biotechnology. The purpose of this paper is to examine the ethical perception of modern biotechnology among the public in the Klang Valley region of Malaysia and to compare their ethical perception across several demographic variables. A survey was carried out using a self-constructed multi-dimensional instrument measuring the ethical perception of modern biotechnology. The respondents (n = 434) were stratified according to stakeholder groups which consisted of eleven groups: Producers, scientists, policy makers, NGOs, the media, religious scholars, university students and consumers. Results from the survey showed that the Klang Valley public did not perceive modern biotechnology as very threatening to the natural order of things (mean score 3.76) and they recognised the high benefits that modern biotechnology could provide to society (mean score 5.31). However, they also stressed that humans do not have the absolute right to modify living things (mean score 3.55) and they perceived modern biotechnology as moderately risky (mean score 4.59), whilst they had moderate confidence in regulation (mean score 4.09) and stressed the high need for proper labelling of modern biotechnology products (mean score 5.70). Background variables such as religion, race, age, education level and gender have significant effect on some of the dimensions of Malaysians’ ethical perception of modern biotechnology. The research findings are useful for understanding the social construct of the ethical acceptance of modern biotechnology in a developing country.

Key words: Modern biotechnology, ethical aspects, perception, Malaysia.

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eISSN: 1684-5315