The best thing about a survey is that it helps to get the opinion of people. To get the most relevant information, it is important to question the most directly effected actors: the farmers and the general public. As it concerns their activity and livelihood, the farmers should be the most informed about Xylella fastidiosa. Also since they are the principal users, their decision about using or not our product is essential to us. We created a short survey to see if the different actors could accept our treatment, even if it contained a GMO.
We went to see the farmers, directly at the "Salon des agricultures de Provence" or indirectly by emailing them. We have goten answers from 9 enterprises, 6 of them producing organic and AOP food, (protected designation of origin) certification of the European Union.
We learned that the X. fastidiosa’s problem is well known within the agricultural field. Moreover, they all agree that it was a subject of concern and they do think it is one of their priorities. They also think that the communication within their field of activity is correct even if progress could be made with the communication within the retailers and with the population.
As for the final form of the treatment, they prefer spraying or vaporization, over injection. So when we did the environemental tests, we tried the various techniques they asked for, to see if they were feasible. Another need was the ability to sell their product shortly after treatment: typically between 0 et 90 days. When we asked them what was the characteristic they would value the most in our product, the answers were efficacity and conformity with standards. Thanks to this, we began to think about the intricacies of the law. Finally, our biggest concerned was GMO. Only 4 said they would be willing to use a modified virus as a cure against X. fastidiosa. 8 of them would have prefered a purified organic compound. We changed our approach in response to their answers: we stopped thinking about lytic phage and instead went for non-replicative phage-like particles.
We wanted to know if the general public was ready to accept our treatment - a genetically modified virus. So we made a survey to get their opinion. To ensure the broadest possible audience, we made the survey both in English and in French. The survey was done via google.forms, we sent the link out over different networks, asking contacts to forward it to their contacts. As we are a student team, a high proportion of answers were from students, this may cause a bias in the answers and should be taken into account.
As you can see from the chart, more than ⅔ hadn’t ever heard about X. fastidiosa ! For those who knew, it was mostly through the media or word of mouth. ¾ of the people who answered were concerned and interested in this bacteria.
We wanted to test their knowledge about synthetic biology: the science of tackling nature. ⅔ did know about it, that is probably because of the large proportion of biology students in the survey. They thought this science was great, 90% of the studied population had a good opinion. More specifically, the feeling they had about the synthetic biology was, from most common to least: interested, enthusiastic, confident and concerned.
They all had a good opinion of our project. Their feelings about it were very similar to those for synthetic biology repplying with: interested, enthusiastic, confident and concerned in order of popularity. They also said that the most important characteristics of our project are: first the protection of trees and the destruction of X. fastidiosa, and second respect of ecology and finally the specificity of the treatment.
When we asked them about the GMO's, we had already modified our project to use PLP's. Since we could be tagged as a GMO, we wanted to ask them about their opinion after a clear explanation of our work. They weren't all hermetic about the use of GMOs, as we had expected. Most had a poorly defined opinion, more than half of them answered "it depends". Most of them were quite aware of the definition of a GMO, so this word doesn't scare them. If we could organize good communication, our project might be accepted by the society.
As we said previously, a survey is the best way to take people's opinion. As we were more than 40 at the beginning of this adventure, the needed to take into account everybody's opinion, this was our first major challenge. Thanks to the human practice's approach, we did, from the very beginning of our project, ask team members their desires and expectations using internal surveys. The objectives were multiple, integrate into the team the more timid members by giving them a voice, build a real team spirit by spreading our values, and help to define ourselves for the financial applications. This was truly essential in the building of a true and strong team. In addition, it helped us to practice our survey creation skills.