No matter how esoteric their pursuits may be, scientists cannot afford to be indifferent to public opinion. The nonscientific public, after all, strongly influences the direction of research and the disbursement of funding. And as scientific research is translated into product development, public acceptance can become the key determinant of success.

It follows that researchers are wise to keep the public well informed on scientific undertakings--especially those projects that could potentially be stymied or even aborted as a result of public ignorance, emotional prejudice, or fear. Serving as a case in point are the public's current attitudes toward food developed through biotechnology.

Earlier this year, I and several colleagues from around the United States--with advice from an interdisciplinary team of scientists--conducted phone interviews on this subject with a representative sampling of 1,228 U.S. adults. We found that awareness and understanding of biotechnology were rather low. However, respondents expressed considerable interest...

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