Public opinion can affect the adoption of genome editing technologies. In food production, genome editing can be applied to a wide range of applications, in different species and with different purposes. This study analyzed how the public responds to five different applications of genome editing, varying the species involved and the proposed purpose of the modification. Three of the applications described the introduction of disease resistance within different species (human, plant, animal), and two targeted product quality and quantity in cattle. Online surveys in Canada, the US, Austria, Germany, and Italy were carried out with a total sample size of 3698 participants.
Using a between-subject design, participants were confronted with one of the five applications and asked to decide whether they considered it right or wrong. Perceived risks, benefits, and the perception of the technology as tampering with nature were surveyed and were complemented with socio-demographics and a measure of the participants’ moral foundations. In all countries, participants evaluated the application of disease resistance in humans as the most right to do, followed by disease resistance in plants, and then in animals, and considered changes in product quality and quantity in cattle as the least right to do. However, US and Italian participants were generally more positive toward all scenarios, and German and Austrian participants more negative.
Cluster analyses identified four groups of participants: ‘strong supporters’ who saw only benefits and little risks, ‘slight supporters’ who perceived risks and valued benefits, ‘neutrals’ who showed no pronounced opinion, and ‘opponents’ who perceived higher risks and lower benefits. This research contributes to understanding public response to applications of genome editing, revealing differences that can help guide decisions related to the adoption of these technologies.
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Busch, G., Ryan, E., von Keyserlingk, M.A.G. et al. Citizen views on genome editing: effects of species and purpose. Agric Hum Values (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-021-10235-9