European confidence and optimism in biotechnology is increasing, according to a survey conducted by the European Commission (EC), with particular support being seen in the area of regenerative medicines, including stem cell research and embryonic stem-cell research.
According to the EC, biotechnology is a major driver in the health and well-being of European citizens, but many factors have affected its development, including consumer safety concerns, strong environmental movements, and little social acceptance. The EC’s Eurobarometer survey, however, showed that 80% of Europeans are in favor of, or unopposed to, biotechnology, although there is still a demand for more facts and communication.
Overall, there was great support for medical biotechnology, with 68% of respondents approving of stem-cell research and 63% approving of embryonic stem-cell research. Additionally, 58% of respondents approve of xenotransplantation, which is subject to moratoria in several countries. The support for medical biotechnology also reaches to nontherapeutic applications, with 56% of respondents approving of research aiming to enhance human performance. However, there was also a strong consensus that strict laws will be needed to alleviate concerns about ethical issues.
Biobanks, facilities that store biological samples, were also well supported. Although only one in three respondents had heard about biobanks, nearly one in two said they would definitely or probably participate in them, with Scandinavian countries showing particular enthusiasm.
“These findings are very encouraging,” Nathalie Moll, secretary general of the European Association for Bioindustries (EuropaBio), said in a press statement. “They show that Europeans increasingly understand and appreciate the benefits that biotechnology brings... In particular, we are delighted by the overwhelming support for medical biotechnology and for the strong support shown for crop-based and nonfood based biofuels.”