Cloning of human cells - Yes or No?
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(This report was issued for a press conference on ISSP research in 2000 - Environment, March 26, 2001)
Petr Soukup
Sociologický ústav AVCR, Jilská 1, 110 00, Praha 1, tel.: 22221658, email: psoukup@soc.cas.cz.

The main findings:

  1. Majority of the Czech population is informed about a possibility of cloning of human cells (83%). More informed are the ones who have reached a higher degree of education.
  2. According to their own words, 60% of the Czech population have an idea of what is the basis of cloning process. People who have reached higher degree of education understand the processes relating to cloning significantly more often.
  3. 40% respondents would ban cloning for a potential misuse. Therefore, support of cloning of human cells prevails in the Czech Republic. People with lower degrees of education and especially believers would ban cloning for moral reasons (47% believers would ban cloning).
  4. Majority of population considers cloning of living creatures a playing with nature (three quarters of the Czech population shares this feeling). People who believe in God perceive it this way more often.
  5. Genetically modified food that are closely related to cloning are perceived as little dangerous in the light of other risks for the environment (43% people consider it exceptional or very dangerous). Older people consider genetically modified food more dangerous.

At present, cloning is a hot topic. After cloned animals, cloning of humans takes its turn. Many scientists already speculate on lucrative cloning of rich individuals. Potential cloning of people has many opponents. What are opinions of the Czech population of cloning, and especially on cloning of human cells?

Majority of the Czech population feels it is informed about cloning (83%). The least informed feel to be elder people. People with a university or high school degree are significantly more informed on cloning of human cells (91% resp. 87%). People with lower degrees of education are less interested in cloning (70% with elementary school degree have heard of a possibility to clone human cells - details on diagram 1).

Diagram 1. Have heard about possibility of cloning of human cells
(Categorisation according to education degree)

Source: ISSP 2000

Ideas of possibilities of cloning and medical treatment through cloning of human cells show the same tendency as the informedness on cloning. Mainly people with higher degree of education declare better of those complicated processes (almost 80% university graduates think they can guess what cloning concerns; while 47% elementary school graduates do - knowledge of cloning in relation to education degree is described on diagram 2). The eldest ones have the least information on cloning (51% persons of 60 years and more have at least basic idea of cloning).

Diagram 2. Idea about cloning
(Categorisation according to an education degree reached)

Source: ISSP 2000

Should cloning be banned or permitted for medical treatment use despite a risk of misuse? This question divides the Czech population in two groups, while the cloning opponents are about one half less than supporters of cloning (40%, resp. 60% support cloning for medical treatment). People with higher degrees of education express stronger support to cloning; on the other hand religious people vote more against cloning. People who can be called post-materialists (see another press release referring to this topic) are more often supporters than opponents of cloning. Diagram 3 describes a rate of support to cloning of the individual listed groups.

Diagram 3. Support of cloning of human cells in the individual groups of population

Source: ISSP 2000

Cloning of living animals represents a dangerous playing with nature for majority of the population (75%). People with a religious orientation share this opinion ever more often (80%). Such people seem to understand an intervention in nature - i.e. to God's creation, caused by cloning unacceptable. People with post-materialist orientation are less sensitive about cloning in relation to nature (61% chooses to say cloning is a dangerous playing with nature). People with lower degrees of education see cloning as a dangerous playing with nature stronger.

Food from genetically modified organisms (GMO) is a significant topic covering pages of newspapers, now. In comparison with various dangers (air pollution from industries, fresh water pollution, global warming up) genetic modifications are considered relatively less dangerous for the environment (43% considers it an extraordinary or very dangerous; three quarters of respondents consider global warming up a strong danger). Post-materialists consider genetic modification less dangerous than the rest of the population (33% post-materialist consider it an extraordinary or very dangerous for the environment - see Diagram 4).

Diagram 4. Perception of danger from genetic modifications of crops for the environment

Source: ISSP 2000

There is a difference in perception of danger from genetically modified food between young and old people. Older people are more sensitive to a danger arising from this kind of manipulation, and consider genetic modifications of crops more dangerous for the environment. This difference is documented on Diagram 5.

Diagram 5. Dependence of perception of danger from genetic modifications of crops to the environment on age

Source: ISSP 2000

Generally, we can say cloning has more supporters than objectors here in the Czech Republic. Genetic modification of crops is not perceived here as a stronger threat, yet. It is probably due to lack of information on this question.

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