Team:MichiganState/HP Survey


An important aspect of our project was understanding how our GM bacteria would be perceived by the public. Public perception can often be a barrier between scientific progress and real world application. The main objectives of our surveys were to determine the public’s knowledge of GMOs, access their comfort level with GMOs, identify any specific areas of concern with genetic engineering, and access their comfort level with our project in particular. Our methods for conducting the surveys were approved by the MSU Institutional Review Board (IRB) as scientifically valid methods. We stood on Grand River Avenue across from MSU’s campus, and asked everyone who walked by to fill out a survey anonymously. We did this for a few days every week during the month of July 2018. Afterward, we tallied all of the surveys to get our final results. The survey itself consisted of a disclaimer paragraph, per IRB regulations, informing the participants about the purpose of the survey, and the contact information for one of our PIs. This was followed by three demographics questions, and then seven questions designed to better understand public opinion of GMOs. All questions were "multiple choice" style.


Overall, 363 people filled out our surveys. Because we surveyed people at a location so close to campus, we were aware that our polling population might have some bias. We saw this bias in our demographic results, where 52% where typical college-aged students. However, we still think that our data can provide some useful insights into the general population’s opinions. We purposely chose a location near a public bus stop and near businesses, so some of the people we polled would be younger and older, and have varying education levels, as better represents the general population.


Our results show that the general public's opinion of GMOs varies dramatically. Public education and awareness will be an important part of making our GM bacteria marketable. We were happy to see, though, that most people were at least open to learning more about our project. As shown in the results from question 5, only 7% thought that genetically modifying bacteria instead of a plant was unacceptable. The other 93% were at least open to discussion and learning more. This is promising for the future use of our GM bacteria. From question 4, we found that people's major concerns with GMOs were the effect on the human body, and the effect on the environment. One benefit to our GMO is that people wouldn't actually be consuming GM crops, but rather crops grown with GM bacteria. This may decrease some of the concerns with the effect on the human body.


Passing out surveys also turned out to be a great opportunity to discuss our project in depth with people who had filled out the survey. They were often interested to learn more, and we engaged in many interesting and thought-provoking conversations. Because of this, we decided to make a brochure that provided a basic overview of iGEM, our project, and we gave copies to interested participants after they had finished filling out a survey.