Public perceptions of plant genetic engineering are of increasing research interest. Although within the current debate on the cultivation of genetically modified plants many related ethical, political and economic issues need specific consideration, young students’ views on this socio-scientific issue are largely unexplored. Therefore, our current analysis focussed on perceptions of Bavarian tenth graders (N = 572) with regard to their hopes and fears in the context of plant genetic engineering. By applying a mixed-methods approach, students rated their individual hopes and fears on a 4-point Likert scale (quantitative part) and gave a written statement about their individual associations (qualitative part): Hereby, hopes scored much higher than fears (medium effect). The subsequent categorisation of qualitative data resulted in five categories for hopes and four categories for fears. Hopes were mainly associated with economic or ecological aspects as well as with the overall fight against world hunger. Fears dealt mainly with negative consequences on human health and the fate of the environment. Additionally, subjective and objective knowledge were analysed for their influence on students’ perceptions. Subjective knowledge had a significant influence on hopes, objective knowledge did not. This background information is relevant for the age-appropriate preparation of biology lessons: Hopes and fears need to be specifically addressed in order to optimise educational efforts and to support students to become responsible citizens.
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