Society is facing major challenges in climate change, health care and overall quality of life. Scientific advances to address these areas continue to grow, with overwhelming evidence that the application of highly tested forms of biotechnology is safe and effective. Despite scientific consensus in these areas, consumers appear reluctant to support their use. Research that helps to understand consumer decision-making and the public’s resistance to biotechnologies such as vaccines, fluoridated water programs and genetically engineered food, will provide great social value. This article is forward-thinking in that it suggests that important research in behavioral decision-making, specifically affect and ambiguity, can be used to help consumers make informed choices about major applications of biotechnology. This article highlights some of the most controversial examples: vaccinations, genetically engineered food, rbST treated dairy cows, fluoridated water, and embryonic stem cell research. In many of these areas, consumers perceive the risks as high, but the experts calculate the risks as low. Four major thematic approaches are proposed to create a roadmap for policymakers to consider for policy design and implementation in controversial areas of biotechnology. This article articulates future directions for studies that implement decision-making research to allow consumers to appropriately assign risk to their options and make informed decisions.
47 Seton Hall Law Review 433 (2017)