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Crop Biotech Update

Japanese Consumers Prefer Gene Editing Applications on Vegetables over Livestock

April 7, 2021

A statistically rigorous online survey finds that Japanese consumers have more negative opinions about the use of gene editing techniques on livestock than they do about using the same technologies on vegetables.

Humans feel closer to animals than plants and have more concern about animal welfare. The study, led by Naoko Kato-Nitta, a research scientist at the Joint Support Center for Data Science Research (ROIS-DS) and Institute of Statistical Mathematics (ISM) in Tokyo, wanted to see if such moral or taxonomic distinctions would produce any difference in the respondents' attitudes towards the use of gene editing techniques such as CRISPR-Cas9.

The online survey had more than 4,000 participants aged 20 to 69 who were shown a visual diagram explaining how gene editing works and asked how they felt about it. The survey results showed that they were more likely to be worried about the use of gene editing techniques on livestock than on plants.

The participants were also asked questions to assess their level of scientific literacy. Those with higher levels of scientific literacy were more supportive of using gene editing to deliver improvements in vegetables or make livestock more resistant to disease. Those with higher levels of scientific literacy thus may be more open to medical applications of biotechnology than agri-food applications.

For more details, read the news release from ROIS-DS or the open-access paper in CABI Agriculture and Bioscience.

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