This study explores the Chinese public's perceptions of, and attitudes to, agriculture and food applications of biotechnology; and investigates the effect of socio-demographic factors on attitudes. A questionnaire survey and interviews were used in an attempt to combine quantitative analysis with qualitative review. The main finding of this study is that the Chinese population has a superficial, optimistic attitude to agricultural biotechnology; and that, in accordance with public attitudes, a cautious policy, with obligatory labelling, should be adopted. The study reveals that education is the factor among socio-demographic variables with the strongest impact on public attitudes. Higher education leads to a more positive evaluation of GM (genetically modified) foods and applications of biotechnology with respect to usefulness, moral acceptability, and suitability for encouragement. In addition, public attitudinal differences depend significantly on area of residence. Compared with their more urban compatriots, members of the public in less developed areas of China have more optimistic attitudes, perceive more benefits, and are more risk tolerant in relation to GM foods and agricultural biotechnology. Finally we obtained a very high rate of "don't know" answers to our survey questions. This suggests that many people do not have settled attitudes, and correspondingly, that the overall public attitude to agricultural biotechnology and GM foods in China is at present somewhat unstable.

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