Introducing Gene Technology to the SocietyDiagnosing the State of Society: Social Implications of the Estonian Genome Project


Külliki Külliki Korts


University of Tartu



Abstract. The paper article discusses recent survey results of the public attitudes towards genetic research and Estonian Genome Project (EGP), placing these into the general debate about the impact of gene technology on modern society, with special attention on the possible social implications accompanying the creation of human genome banks. The applicability of the propositions of Ulrich Beck how to balance the latently growing importance of genetic thinking in society is reviewed in the context of the Estonian society with quite different history of the development of “risk society”. In comparison with Western European experience, Estonia is characterised by a lack of previous controversial experience with gene technology (i.e. debates over GMO, cloning, etc.), and the continuing very high appreciation of scientists, coupled with the lack of tradition of public critical engagement in science and technology related issues. This has resulted in overwhelmingly positive public perception of the gene project. Taking into account the crucial aspect by which the EGP differs from all other planned gene banks, namely by granting every donor the right for feedback, it is argued that in such social context, the fears of those concerned over the possible negative social impact of the rather unbalanced introduction of gene technology in different spheres of society are even more tangible.