Crop Biotech Update

Science-based Information, Regulatory Institutions Affect Consumer Acceptance of Gene-edited Foods in Canada

May 4, 2022

The nature of social media and calls for transparency make consumer product demands more relevant as gene-edited foods become increasingly popular. However, the information available about the technology is limited and can sometimes be incorrect. Consumers must then have access to the right information to be well-educated about this new food technology to make sound decisions.

A consumer survey was conducted in August 2018 in English-speaking areas in Canada. 497 Canadians were identified to participate in the study that aimed to gather perceptions about food safety, gene editing, and willingness to consume three gene-edited food products. Four factors were found to strongly influence consumer perceptions:

  • trust in the Canadian food safety system
  • food technology neophobia scores
  • knowledge of genetics; and
  • self-knowledge of gene editing.

These factors point to the importance of the availability of scientific and reliable information for consumers about emerging food technology as the survey found that Canadians have low levels of scientific knowledge and low levels of self-rated knowledge of gene editing technology. These, in turn, limit the consumption intention of gene-edited food products. Thus, there is a need for better scientific disclosure to educate consumers about gene editing technology.

The recommended approach to achieve this should consider ideological beliefs, and the public's ethical, political, religious, and cultural views. Educational campaigns to inform consumers about the benefits and risks of gene-edited foods, and information campaigns that focused on reinforcing the consumers existing positive perceptions about nutritional and environmental benefits were recommended. These campaigns will be more effective with the participation of key institutions like Health Canada, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Agri-food Canada, whom consumers consider to be trustworthy to make informed decisions.

Learn more about the Canadians' perception of gene-edited foods in Frontiers in Genome Editing.

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