Study title
Biotechnology and the European public
Ref study 6332
Study language English
Contributing institutions
  • Biotechnology
  • Agriculture
  • Environmental protection
  • Horizontal activities
  • Public perception
Geographical space
Switzerland (this data set) plus 16 other European countries
  • Switzerland
The structure and origins of attitudes to genetic engineering have so far hardly been systematically investigated in Switzerland. In Switzerland, too, the future of genetic engineering procedures appears to depend on consensus among the population. The vote on the gene protection initiative and the media campaigns that preceded it made it clear that there can be no talk of consensus. Rather, there are deep, almost unbridgeable gulfs between proponents and opponents of this new technology.
At the scientific level, the opinion polls carried out so far and the rare qualitative studies on the attitudes on this issue are far from sufficient to understand the motives of the advocates and opponents of genetic engineering and to understand the dynamics of opinion-forming both among politicians and among the population in this area. In addition, longitudinal studies on both the policy process and media coverage of genetic engineering are lacking.
For this reason, the IPMZ - Institute for Journalism and Media Research at the University of Zurich initiated a research project in 1996 which, supported by a group of researchers from different disciplines and institutions, tried to shed light on the phenomenon of "genetic engineering in the field of tension between politics, media and the public" from different perspectives and on the basis of four interlinked subprojects. Hypotheses, theoretical perspectives and methodical access should be mutually coordinated.
In detail, the subprojects (1) are a policy analysis of genetic engineering policy in Switzerland, (2) a content analysis of media coverage of genetic engineering over the last 25 years, (3) supplemented by a qualitative content analysis of the media response to the "Dolly" case and (4) a representative survey of the Swiss population on genetic engineering in spring 1997 (Eurobarometer 1997). Only the data of the representative survey is archived at FORS.
The Swiss project "Genetic engineering in the field of tension between politics, media and the public" is not only transdisciplinary in concept, but also international and comparative, as it is part of the concerted action "Biotechnology and the European Public", in which researchers from 15 countries work on the topic under the direction of a team of researchers from the "Science Museum" and the "London School of Economics". The common basis is the Eurobarometer Survey conducted in these countries as well as the jointly conceived and coordinated policy studies on the regulation of genetic engineering and content analyses of media reporting in the various European countries, but also in the USA and Canada.
The goal of the international project can be summarized as follows: "A cross-national comparative analysis will identify why, in different countries and at different times, particular issues and concerns have characterized public debate and public policy making. This will lead to a European comparative perspective on the evaluation and interpretation of the Eurobarometer survey. The practical implications of public perceptions for European biotechnology policy-making will be drawn out for the benefit of the scientific, industrial and policy-making communities."
Methods (description)
Methods (instruments)
Replicated study No
  • Dahinden, Urs . 2002. Biotechnology: From inter-science to international controversies. In: Public Understanding of Science, 11 (4), pp. 87-92, 2002.
  • Bonfadelli, Heinz; Dahinden, Urs ; Leonarz, Martina. 2002. Biotechnology in Switzerland: High on the public agenda, but only moderate support. In: Public Understanding of Science, 11 (4), pp. 113-130, 2002.
  • Dahinden, Urs . 2002. Biotechnology in Switzerland - Frames in a Heated Debate. In: Science Communication, 24 (2), pp. 184-197, 2002.
  • Wagner, W.; Kronberger, N.; Gaskell, G.; Allum, Nick; Allansdottir, Agnes; Cheveigné, S.; Dahinden, Urs ; Diego, C.; Montali, L.; Mortensen, A.; Pfenning, U.; Rusanen, T.; Seger, N.. 2001. Nature in Disorder: The Troubled Public of Biotechnology. In: Gaskell, George; Bauer, Martin W. (Hrsg.): Biotechnology 1996-2000 - The years of the controversy. London, Science Museum. S. 80-95, 2001.
  • Bonfadelli, Heinz; Dahinden, Urs ; Leonarz, Martina; Schanne, Michael; Schneider, Colette; Knickenberg, Sandra. 2001. Biotechnology in Switzerland - From Street Demonstrations to Regulations. In: Gaskell, George; Bauer, Martin W. (Hrsg.), Biotechnology 1996-2000 - The years of the controversy. London, Science Museum. S. 282-291, 2001.
  • Dahinden, Urs ; Bonfadelli, Heinz; Leonarz, Martina. 2000. Biotechnology: Dimensions of Public Concern in Europe. In: Proceedings of the International Transdisciplinarity 2000 Conference: Transdisciplinarity - Joint Problem Solving among Science, Technology and Society. Workbook II; Contributions to the Mutual Learning Sessions. R. W. Scholz; Häberli, Rudolf; Bill, Alain; Welti, Myrta. Zürich, Haffmans: 47-51, 2000.
  • Bonfadelli, Heinz. 2000. Gentechnik in den Medien. Popularisierung oder Frühwarnung?. In: Bulletin. Magazin der Eidgenössischen Technischen Hochschule Zürich, Nr. 277, S. 32-35, April 2000.
  • Dahinden, Urs . 2000. Die "Prognosemaschine" - Gentechnik als Informationstechnologie. In: unimagazin - Die Zeitschrift der Universität Zürich, Nr. 2, Juni 2000.
  • Bonfadelli, Heinz. 2000. Risikoberichterstattung - Risikoperzeption. In: unimagazin - Die Zeitschrift der Universität Zürich, Nr. 2, S. 37-40, April 2000.
  • Bonfadelli, Heinz. 1999. Gentechnologie im Spannungsfeld von Politik, Medien und Öffentlichkeit. Zürich, Institut für Publizistikwissenschaft und Medienforschung der Universität Zürich, 1999.
  • Bonfadelli, Heinz; Hieber, Petra; Leonarz, Martina; Meier, Werner A.; Schanne, Michael; Wessels, Hans-Peter. 1998. Switzerland: National Profile. In: Durant, J., Bauer, Martin W., Gaskell, George (eds.): Biotechnology in the public sphere - A European Sourcebook. London, Science Museum: pp. 144-161, 1998.
Unpublished documents
  • Bonfadelli, Heinz; Dahinden, Urs . 2002. Gentechnologie in der öffentlichen Kontroverse. Eine sozialwissenschaftliche Analyse. Zürich: Seismo Verlag, Sozialwissenschaften und Gesellschaftsfragen, 2002.
  • Bonfadelli, Heinz. 2000. Gentechnik 2000: Zukunftserwartungen gestiegen, Akzeptanz bleibt polarisiert negativ. Pressemitteilung vom 19. Sept. 2000.
Financed by

Mandating institution(s)
  • Federal Department of Home Affairs - FDHA, Bundesamt für Bildung und Wissenschaft - BBW, Nationale Forschungsinstitutionen, Hallwylstrasse 4, Postfach 5675, 3003 Bern
Ethical approval No
Study type
Data availability
Source (Updates) Web
Date created 27.04.2018
Date modified 27.04.2018
Start - End date 01.01.1997 - 28.12.1998