[ASC-media] Biotechnology Australia: Stem cell support increases, but clones have few friends

Young, Janine Janine.Young at industry.gov.au
Wed Jul 27 09:53:31 EST 2005

Stem cell support increases, but clones have few friends

Media Release  05/254 
27 July 2005
Public support for the use of stem cells and gene therapies has
increased in Australia while support for human cloning remains very low.
These are amongst the findings of recent studies into public attitudes
towards stem cells, released by the Australian government agency,
Biotechnology Australia.
Speaking at the conference of the Human Genetics Society of Australasia
in Newcastle today, Mr Craig Cormick, the Manager of Public Awareness
for Biotechnology Australia said there has been a general increase in
awareness of stem cells and other gene therapies.  While support for
human cloning remains very low at under 10 per cent. 
"Support for embryonic stem cell research has risen from 52% to 65% over
the past four years, and support for adult stem cells has risen from 70%
to 78%," he said.
"While about 82% of people believe that stem cell technologies will
improve our way of life in the future, about 70% have developed
expectations that this will happen in the next five years," he said. 
The studies also found that awareness of stem cell applications was far
higher than the understanding of stem cells applications, and that
perceptions of benefits outweighed the perceptions of risks - such as
using stem cells to treat diseases, which was rated as beneficial by 87%
and as risky by 37%.
"On the issue of embryonic stem cell use, attitudes appear to be driven
by a complex value chain that is influenced by an individual's personal
moral position, the source of the embryonic stem cells, the benefits of
the technology and levels of social trust," he said.
"When asked to define their main moral and ethical concerns about the
use of human embryos, the majority of respondents gave the broad
responses 'no concern' (33%) or 'potential abuse of the technology'
(28%). Compared to last year however, we have seen that people are more
able to articulate specific concerns."
The main concerns identified by people were 'Destroying a life to save a
life', 'Playing God' and 'Depends on the source of the stem cells'. 
"Also, while there has been general strong support from about 70% of the
public over the last four years for the use of gene technologies to
treat breast cancer, heart disease or schizophrenia - support for making
a child more average weight, or increasing a child's intelligence, have
been much lower, in that period, and are currently at about 27% and
"While there were some demographic differences based on gender,
education and English-speaking ability, people tended to see using these
technologies to alter a child's weight or intelligence as more cosmetic
and trivial applications," he said.
"Support for genetic testing of unborn children, however, has risen over
four years, from 54% approval to 67%."
The findings were based on two separate studies undertaken by the
independent research companies, Market Attitude Research Services and
Eureka Strategic Research. The MARS study has tracked attitudes over
four years, and the Eureka study has looked at more complex attitudes in
relation to other uses of biotechnology and involved both a phone poll
and focus groups. Both had sample sizes of over 1000 respondents.
Further information is available on the media release page at

For further information, contact: 
Craig Cormick 
Manager of Public Awareness
Biotechnology Australia

Ph: 0418 963 914

The information contained in this e-mail, and any attachments to it,
is intended for the use of the addressee and is confidential.  If you
are not the intended recipient you must not use, disclose, read,
forward, copy or retain any of the information.  If you received this
e-mail in error, please delete it and notify the sender by return
e-mail or telephone.

The Commonwealth does not warrant that any attachments are free
from viruses or any other defects.  You assume all liability for any
loss, damage or other consequences which may arise from opening
or using the attachments.

More information about the ASC-media mailing list