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Crop Biotech Update

Study Reveals Citizens' Reactions to Genome Editing in Five Countries

July 14, 2021

Researchers from the University of Göttingen in Germany and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada examined how citizens in five countries react to different applications of genome editing in agriculture, which applications are accepted, and how the risks and benefits of the new breeding technologies are assessed.

The results show there are only minor differences in the five countries of Germany, Italy, Canada, Austria, and the USA. However, in all five countries, changes in the genome of crops are more accepted than livestock. Between June and November 2019, 3,700 people from five countries participated in the online survey about this topic. Five different application examples of gene editing were analyzed. Three applications relate to disease resistance in the three species human, plant, animal; two applications relate to different goals for the same species (change in product quality or quantity in cattle).

According to Dr. Gesa Busch from the University of Göttingen, the purpose of gene modification plays a major role in the assessment. Dr. Busch said, "If the technology is used to make animals resistant to diseases, approval is greater than if the technology is used to increase the performance of the animals." Overall, however, the respondents reacted very differently to the use of the new breeding method. Four different groups can be identified: strong supporters, supporters, neutrals, and disapprovers of the technology. Those who are strongly in favor of the technology (21 percent) see few risks and many advantages. However, the group who opposes it (24 percent) perceive strong risks and advocate a ban on the technology, regardless of the potential benefits.

For more details, read the article on the University of Göttingen website.

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