Project Search

sector_ico_Agrifood_trans Agrifood

Examining Public Beliefs about the Ethics of Genetically Modifying Livestock

  • Project Leaders: Daniel Weary, Adam Shriver
  • Institutions: University of British Columbia (UBC)
  • Budget: $49769
  • Program/Competition: Societal Issues Competiton
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome British Columbia
  • Fiscal Year: 2018
  • Status: Closed

This project aimed to understand societal concerns around the acceptability of Genetically Modified (GM) technology applied to animal agriculture, and how these concerns vary when the technology is intended to address animal welfare concerns and other societal concerns related to modern farm animal production.  

Over a series of studies addressing the aptitudes of thousands of Canadian, American and European participants it was found that: participants are more supportive of GM applications when the intention is to achieve societal benefits (e.g. better animal health, animal welfare and/or farm worker welfare) versus private benefits (e.g. higher profits for farmers); participants vary in their willingness to support GM technology from “Strong Supporters” who see only benefits and little risks, to “Slight supporters” who perceive risks but value benefits, “Neutrals” who show no pronounced opinion and “Opponents” who perceive high risks and low benefits; a substantial majority of participants reject the use of technological solutions across a range of scenarios, and the tendency to reject technological solutions (including the use of GM technologies) stems from viewing technological solutions as inappropriate for addressing larger, systematic problems in agricultural systems.  

In conclusion, the results from these studies suggest that public attitudes to the application of GM technology to animal agriculture vary widely. They also indicate that many people are willing to consider the benefits of these technologies (especially the societal versus private benefits) in their decisions, but also reject what they perceive to be technological fixes to fundamental flaws with current production systems.