The Royal Society survey is an extremely careful investigation of the views of three panels of ‘ordinary’ people based in London – Norwich and Edinburgh concerned respectively with genetic modification of humans – plants and animals other than human.
The survey was carried out over a considerable period and with a great deal of internal communication.
It is not surprising therefore that people changed their minds or modified their opinions – during the course of the inquiry.
But one thing that emerges most clearly from the report is the common thirst for more knowledge.
Again and again – participants complained that they were inhibited from expressing an opinion about new developments in the field by their ignorance of which therapies were currently being used and which were in the pipeline.
The motivating force behind the survey was the thought that the new possibilities of curing disease by genetic modification could be of benefit to large numbers of people – many of whom suffered from conditions hitherto untreatable.
It is therefore essential that these new possibilities should be widely understood and that there should be no room for suspicion that research is being carried out behind closed doors or that there is help available to which no one has access.
Among the London group, those concerned with the application of the new techniques to humans – a surprising number held the view that the benefit of the techniques lay in the matter of equality: everyone whatever their disease or disability would have a chance to benefit from the new therapies.