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sector_ico_Agrifood_trans Agrifood sector_ico_GenomicsSociety_trans Genomics and Society

Examining Public Beliefs about the Ethics of Genetically Modifying Livestock

  • Project Leaders: Daniel Weary, Adam Shriver
  • Institutions: University of British Columbia (UBC)
  • Budget: $49769
  • Competition: Societal Issues Competition – Round 2
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome British Columbia
  • Fiscal Year: 2018
  • Status: Active

The agricultural industry is increasingly exploring the potential of genetic technology to address challenges related to modern animal production such as livestock disease susceptibility, environmental concerns, and animal welfare. Yet many people remain cautious about applications of genetic technology and have concerns about the production and consumption of genetically modified farm animals. Indeed, studies have consistently shown that the public is more concerned about the genetic modification of animals than the genetic modification of crops.

Research is needed to better understand what factors are influencing concerns about genetic modification of livestock. For example, is concern driven primarily by considerations unique to animals (such as animal welfare), or are more general concerns about biotechnology simply more salient when viewed in the context of genetically modified animals? This project will evaluate how Canadians assess the genetic modification of livestock in light of different risks and benefits associated with this technology.

This project has two primary aims. The first is to identify different types of ethical concerns and perceived risks that influence views on the acceptability of genetically modified animals. These may include concerns about harm to the animals, violation of naturalness, or potential health risks related to human consumption. The second aim is to see how malleable these concerns are in response to assurances intended to reduce the associated risk. For example, if concern about animal welfare is a reason for resistance to genetically modified livestock, will this resistance wane if strict welfare standards are implemented?

If successful, this project could help researchers and the agriculture sector better respect and respond to public values relating to the genetic modification of livestock.