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Crop Biotech Update

Study Reveals Experts' and Public's Attitude Towards Gene-edited Crops

January 29, 2020

A team of Japanese researchers, led by Dr. Naoko Kato-Nitta, research scientist at Tokyo's Joint Support-Center for Data Science Research and The Institute of Statistical Mathematics, surveyed perceptions of Japanese experts and the public of the benefits, risks, and value of using gene editing for developing crops compared to other emerging or conventional breeding techniques in Japan, where the production of genetically modified (GM) crops is strictly regulated and not readily accepted.

Web-based surveys were conducted with participants of 3,197 volunteers of the lay public and scientists with and without expertise in molecular biology. The study shows that participants who had expert knowledge of molecular biology perceived emerging technologies to offer the lowest risk and highest benefits or value for food application, while lay public showed the highest risk and lowest benefit. Experts from other disciplines had similar perceptions to the lay public in terms of the risk, but similar perceptions to the molecular biology experts in terms of value. The lay public tended to perceive gene-edited crops as being both more beneficial and valuable than other genetically modified crops, while also posing less risk.

"The results enabled us to elucidate the deficit model's boundary conditions in science communication by proposing two new hypotheses," said Kato-Nitta. The model assumes that as scientific knowledge increases, so too does public acceptance of new technologies. According to Kato-Nitta, this assumption was valid only for conventional science, knowledge of which can be acquired through classroom education, but not valid for emerging science, such as gene editing. "Secondly, the model's assumption on emerging science is valid only for increasing benefit perceptions but not for reducing risk perceptions," Kato-Nitta adds.

For more details, read this article and the paper in Nature Communications.

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