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sector_ico_Agrifood_trans Agrifood

Understanding the Perceived Risks and Benefits of Agricultural Applications of Gene Editing

  • Project Leaders: Terre Satterfield, Milind Kandlikar
  • Institutions: University of British Columbia (UBC)
  • Budget: $50000
  • Program/Competition: Societal Issues Competiton
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome British Columbia
  • Fiscal Year: 2018
  • Status: Active

Advances in gene editing are raising questions within society. In some ways, the discourse is similar to the discussion around Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) — a subject of sustained protest and debate globally. Among the common complaints in the case of GMOs are calls of ‘playing god’, disrupting the natural order of things, and characterizations of agricultural products as ‘Frankenfoods’.

While most of these claims are widely seen as spurious by geneticists, agricultural scientists and economists, the sensitivity amongst the public remains high and is a significant concern. In extreme cases, the rapid escalation of these positions may result in the stigmatization of classes of food products.

The objective of this project is to investigate how a spectrum of emerging gene editing techniques and the outcomes they generate are perceived by different public groups. The project team will investigate these in an agricultural context with the working assumption that there is likely a spectrum of gene editing actions that people intuitively reject while others will be accepted.

This research aims to contribute to responsible governance of biotechnology wherein both scientists and the broader public understand each other well and can address the ethical and social dilemmas that might be involved.