Crop Biotech Update

Public Perception Towards Gene-Edited Meat “Comes in a Package” -Study

May 4, 2022

New technologies are prone to social controversy and opposition and gene editing technology for livestock is no exception to this. To address the renewed interest in people's attitudes towards its use in meat production, public attitudes and consumption predisposition toward gene-edited products were explored by researchers who were able to identify their intrinsic components.

An online questionnaire was distributed to 848 participants from the United Kingdom to gather the data relevant to the study. The results showed that, as the researchers put it, “societal perception currently comes as a package, where the use of gene editing technology acts as an intrinsic cue of meat product quality and is used to make a range of inferences about all quality facets at once.” They were then able to identify the important factors related to the acceptance of gene-edited meat:

  • Attitudes toward gene-edited meat are built on attitudes toward genetic modification and gene editing food technologies in food production, and the attitude toward the treatment of animals and plants. In this sense, genome editing would work as a consumer heuristic on the production process that is used by people to make inferences about product quality.
  • Genome editing in plants should be treated differently from genome editing in animals. The different opinions about the two treatments were key to separating attitudinal positions among the participants. It was found that reluctance to use gene editing in livestock compared to plants is likely related to the public concern for farm animal welfare.
  • Low knowledge increases risk perception, a fact that is strongly related to novel technology acceptability. Researchers found that the lower perceived knowledge of gene editing technology in meat leads to a more negative attitude towards it.
  • The knowledge of added benefits brought by gene editing affected the consumers' willingness to pay for a product, and the effect was larger on benefits related to animal welfare than environmental or human health issues.

To further expand the acceptability of gene-edited meat among consumers, dialogues must be conducted to provide them with the correct information. Changes in opinion will depend on clear, transparent dialogues about the benefits of gene editing technology. And these dialogues will be successful if all actors play their roles, from the transparent representation by the industry to informed decision-making by stakeholders with science-backed information from academic institutions.

Learn more from Frontiers in Nutrition.

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