Learning Lab Denmark - INCUBEus

H. Medical Industry

Biological industry is one of the most complex industries in terms of public risk assessment, because people distinguish between different biotechnologies. Gene technology, medicine and surgery - to mention a few biological technologies - have very different consequences for the public, and it is therefore useful to distinguish between them.

A study conducted by the European Commission shows that the percentage of perceived usefulness varies with more than 30 percent, depending on which biological technology we are talking about (Fischhoff & Fischhoff 2001).

In a psychometric study conducted by Slovic in 1978 (Slovic 2000), medicine such as contraceptives is perceived as being of greater benefit than risk to community. Surgery, although implying quite a high risk, is perceived as being mainly beneficial.

Slovic has not included genetically engineered food products in his study, but according to other studies, the publicly perceived risk is great in relation to this technology (Gaivoronskaia & Solem 2001).

A recent poll on the Eurobarometer showed a positive overall evaluation of most biotechnologies; only animal cloning and genetically engineered food scored negatively. Various socioeconomic and demographic factors influence the public risk assessment of biotechnologies. Several studies show that young, male, politically conservative and wealthy persons generally view biotechnology more positively than others (Fischhoff & Fischhoff, 2001).

Further reading:

Report on the public's opinion of biotechnologies by Fischhoff & Fischhof in AgBioForum:

An OECD report on emerging risks in the 21. Century:

A paper on risk assesment in relation to gene technology by Gaivoronskaia & Solem:

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Nine Technologies

A. Air Transport
B. Buildings
C. Land Transport
D. Marine Transport
E. Bridges and Dams
F. Oil Tankers
G. Chemical Industry
H. Medical Industry
I. Nuclear Industry

Nine Theories

Quantitative Risk Assessment
Decision Analysis
Cost-benefit Analysis
Normal Accident Theory
High Reliability Organisations
Risk communication
Arena Theory
Cultural Theory

Five Categories

Hazard (0-1000)
Range (km2)
Fear Factor (0-10)
Media Effect (0-100)