Ethical perception of synthetic biology
Modern biotechnology has moved forward by the introduction of the synthetic biology technique. By using synthetic biology, it is possible to construct mice genes in the laboratory and replace the need for the genes to be split out from the original animal. The purpose of this paper is to examine how the public in the Klang Valley region of Malaysia, perceive the ethical aspects of genetically modified (GM) rice which contain synthetic 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 that the Malaysian stakeholders were not very familiar with the 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, the Malaysian public in the Klang Valley region were still not ready and have a cautious stance on the use synthetic animal gene. The research finding is useful to understand the social construct of the ethical acceptance of the use of synthetic animal gene in plant. It is suggested that a more in-depth study should be carried out to determine the perspectives of various religion on synthetic biology.
Key words: Ethical perception, genetically modified rice, synthetic biology.