Ethical perception of human gene in transgenic banana
Transgenic banana has been developed to prevent hepatitis B through vaccination. Its production seems to be an ideal alternative for cheaper vaccines. The objective of this paper is to assess the ethical perception of transgenic banana which involved the transfer of human albumin gene, and to compare their ethical dimensions across several demographic variables. A survey was carried out in the Klang Valley region from August, 2009 till February, 2010 using self constructed multi-dimensional instrument measuring ethical perception of transgenic banana. The respondents (n=434) were stratified according to stakeholder groups which consisted of eleven groups: Producers, scientists, policy makers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), media, religious scholars (Islamic, Buddhist, Christian, and Hindu scholars), university students and consumers. Results of the study showed that the Malaysian stakeholders were unfamiliar with transgenic banana, and perceived transgenic banana as having moderate risks and marginally beneficial to the Malaysian society and the ethical aspects were moderately acceptable to them as well as from their religous point of view. ANOVAs showed that all the four ethical dimensions: Familiarity, denying benefits, ethical acceptance and perceived risks significantly differed across stakeholders’ groups while the last three dimensions also differed significantly across religion. Perceived risks, denying benefits, ethical and religious acceptance further differed significantly across races. However, with respect to ages, only the factor familiarity differed and no significant difference were found across educational level and gender. Although, the idea of producing an edible vaccine through transgenic banana seems to be an ideal alternative for cheaper vaccines, the Malaysian stakeholders 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. Further research needs to be done to determine the perspectives of various religions on the use of human gene in plants.
Key words: Ethical perception, transgenic banana, Malaysian stakeholder.