Ethical perception of cross-species gene transfer in plant
Plants can be genetically modified through a variety of methods in the hope that it will be improved in some way to increase the yield and quality of a crop, or to add nutritional value or shelf life. The development of genetically modified (GM) rice to enrich its nutritional value, such as Vitamin C might involve gene transfer across different species. The purpose of this paper is to examine how the public in the Klang Valley region of Malaysia, perceive the development of GM rice which contain mice gene to increase its vitamin C content. A survey was carried out using self constructed multi-dimensional instrument measuring ethical perception of GM rice. The respondents (n = 434) were stratified according to stakeholders groups. Results from the survey on 434 respondents have shown the Malaysian stakeholders were not very familiar with GM rice and perceived it as having moderate risk, its benefits to the society would not be much denied if it is not developed and the ethical aspects were considered as not acceptable to them as well as from their religous point of view. ANOVAs showed that the five ethical dimensions: Familiarity, denying benefits, religious acceptance, ethical acceptance and perceived risks significantly differed across stakeholders’ groups while the first three dimensions also differed significantly across races. Furthermore, with respect to ages, only the factor of familiarity differed and no significant difference were found across educational level and gender. In conclusion, although the idea of producing GM rice enriched with vitamin C seems to be an ideal alternative to increase vitamin C intake in Malaysia, the Malaysian public in the Klang Valley region were still not ready and have a cautious stance. The research finding is useful to understand the social construct of the ethical acceptance of cross-species gene transfers in developing country.
Key words: Ethical perception, genetically modified (GM) rice, cross-species gene transfer, Malaysia.