Team:ETH Zurich/Public Engagement

Education &

Genetically modified organisms (GMO) and the technologies to create them often spark rejection among people without a background in natural sciences, especially when it comes to applications in agriculture. Even though a healty proportion of caution is well-founded, we think many people are not properly informed about GMO and many sceptics and fears are rooted in this knowledge gap. We think it is very important for the advancement of the field of synthetic biology (and research in general) that the public opinion about new technologies is based on facts and not half-truths and fears. Only then, the public is able to properly judge and assess new technologies. This requires an open dialog between people and researchers working with these kind of technologies.
To facilitate this flow of information we carried out an information event in Basel City, Switzerland. During this event we tried to get in contact with people with different backgrounds and opinions to learn what they think GMO's are and how they influence our lifes.

Furthermore, we attended the conference of the German Association of Synthetic Biology, where we presented our project and got in contact with other researcher from the field of synthetic biology.

Information Event
Basel City
During our information event we installed a little information stand near the Mittlere Brücke in the middle of Basel city. There, we approached people on the street and talked with them about GMOs and the iGEM project. During these discussion we collected the different and diverse opinions about GMOs and our project on a white board (see section Public Opinion). During the discussion with the people we tried to address questions like:
  • How are GMOs created?
  • Where and how are GMOs used?
  • Are GMOs per se bad?
  • What are the regulations in Switzerland regarding GMOs?
  • What is your impression of the iGEM project?
We meet many amazing people and enjoyed the discussions with them. The reactions of the people ranged from amazed and super curios to complete rejection. We also made the experience that many people were open to new information about GMOs and happy to receive it. For some these To inform about GMOs in general we designed a flyer (see section Flyer) with information about production and application of GMOs as well as common questions and a iGEM section.

Also have a look at our slideshow below with impressions of the event!
Public Opinion
Here we present the white board after the information event. On the white we collected the opinions of the people we meet regarding GMOs. Hover over the opinions to reveal the english translation.
Hover over the text for a translation!
They are amazing! They can make life better! Congrats!
Let nature be
Go for it!
Goosebumps: cool! Dangerous?
Worth it if it helps mankind :) !
Solves many problems of our future!
Pay attention!
GM technology is okey in medicine but no GM technology in agriculture!
It's ingenious!
double-edged sword
Makes food grow around the whole world. Helps fight starvation
Nice robot

Good or bad, we don't know.
A great idea or initative. I hope it will take us a step furthe rin realizing the full potential of technological advancement.
That's what our future means
A step towards the future
Click on the flyer to open it!
GASB Conference
From the 27th until the 28th of September, we attended the “German Association for Synthetic Biology” (GASB) conference in Berlin. There, we heard talks about the latest advances in the field of Synthetic Biology ranging from Plant- over Computational- and Mammalian Synthetic Biology to Synthetic Microbial Networks and Enzyme Engineering. Furthermore, we were given the opportunity to present our project to a broad audience of synthetic biologists and thereby not only represented ETH Zurich but also the iGEM competition as we were the only iGEM team participating in the conference. It was especially interesting to hear opinions about our novel application and whether our work is considered as a valuable contribution to the future of Synthetic Biology.
Jan presenting our poster at the GASB II
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