Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Stephanie Bohon

Committee Members

Robert Jones, Jon Shefner


Biotechnology has had a short but rather conflict-ridden history. The technology was commercialized in 1995 and since has become a volatile topic for international debate. Arguably, the United States is the biggest supporter of this technology. The United States conducted the first study using recombinant DNA, grows more biotech crops than any other country, and houses the vast majority of the largest biotech corporations. Proponents frequently claim that biotech crops are a way to improve crop production, lower food prices, decrease the need for petrochemical inputs, and alleviate international food security problems. Others see them as accelerating the loss of traditional agricultural techniques, raising the costs of agricultural production, increasing inequalities, and posing significant environmental and human health risks. The European Union has been more hesitant than the United States to adopt the use of biotechnology, which has resulted in open, international conflict. Given the novelty of and gross conflict over this technology, deeper analyses are needed before many of these concerns can be alleviated or substantiated.

Examining public concern can provide a rich description of the issues surrounding biotechnology. Since the emergence of biotechnology, the European Union, via the Eurobarometer, has frequently administered surveys to its members to measure public concern. Conversely, the United States has failed to systematically administer surveys to measure concern over biotechnology. Instead, US studies have tended to be ad hoc, a-theoretical, and noncumulative, which has thwarted the evolution of a well-developed literature on US public concern for biotechnology. Therefore, the aim of this study is to examine US public opinion data to identify the dimensions inherent in the indictors of social concern surrounding biotechnology. Questionnaires administered between 1993 and 2010 containing at least one measure of biotech concern were collected. To identify the dimensions of concern, a thematic content analysis was conducted on the opinion questions. Public concern was measured by the percentage of people that express concern in their responses to the questions. I also examine trends in concern, as they relate to the dimensions of concern proxied by the indicators.

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