Breeding and Genetics Symposium III: Genome Editing: Science and Commercialization
Gene editing has tremendous potential to benefit society and food production. Yet, the social license to develop the technology to its full potential is dependent on public support and market acceptance. Traditionally it has been assumed that sound science and appropriate government oversight will result in social acceptance of innovation. What consumers want first and foremost, according to research from The Center for Food Integrity (CFI), is to know that food producers share their values, like producing safe, affordable, nutritious food in a manner that protects our environment. Sixty-five percent of U.S. consumers surveyed want to know more about how food is produced (CFI, 2017). Testing of videos about CRISPR indicate more than half of viewers want to learn more, and support for CRISPR rose from 45 to 60% when given credible, clear and understandable information. In reviewing more than 15 studies about consumer opinions on biotechnology, CFI found these consistent themes. 1) There is a considerable knowledge gap among consumers – in science and modern plant and animal breeding. 2) Before describing gene editing, it is helpful to show the evolution of genetic improvement. 3) The public wants information from credentialed experts, but they do not want an academic explanation. 4) Analogies and visuals are important to explain science, and they should be understandable without being oversimplified. 5) Consumers show strongest support for benefits of science related to environmental stewardship, healthier food and disease resistance. 6) Consumers have additional questions about use of science in animals, compared to plants. Because scientists and academic institutions among the most-trusted sources for information about biotechnology, they have a unique opportunity to effectively engage and provide information the public wants and needs to make informed decisions about gene editing.