We’ve scanned the web to bring together a library of interesting, thought-provoking articles, blogs, reports and academic papers that explore the issue of genetic engineering in food and farming from broader and deeper perspectives. Browse for inspiration or search by theme.

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Gene editing in animals: What does the public want to know and what information do stakeholder organizations provide?

Publication date: 07/02/2024
Organizations involved with gene editing may engage with the public to share information and address concerns about the technology. It is unclear, however, if the information shared aligns with what people want to know. We aimed to understand what members of the public want to know about gene editing in animals by soliciting their questions through an open-ended survey question and comparing them with questions posed in Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) webpages developed by gene editing stakeholder organizations. Participants (338 USA residents) asked the most questions about gene editing in general and animal welfare. In contrast, FAQ webpages focused on regulations. The questions survey participants asked demonstrate a range of knowledge and interests. The discrepancy between survey participant questions and the information provided in the FAQ webpages suggests that gene editing stakeholders might engage in more meaningful public engagement by soliciting actual questions from the public and opening up opportunities for real dialogue.
Resource type: article: Web Page

Identifying sustainability assessment parameters for genetically engineered agrifoods

Publication date: 22/07/2023

This Opinion article argues that to achieve a more sustainable agrifood production that relies on genetic engineering, governance systems related to new agrifood biotechnologies should incorporate a broader array of environmental, health, ethical, and societal factors to ensure their sustainability in the long-term. To facilitate this process, we propose a set of parameters to help evaluate the sustainability of agrifoods that rely on genetic engineering. We then discuss major challenges and opportunities for formalizing sustainability parameters in US governance policy and decision-making systems. Overall, this work contributes to further developing a more comprehensive assessment framework that aims to minimize potential risks and maximize potential benefits of agrifood biotechnology while also fostering sustainability.

Resource type: article: Web Page

With great power comes great responsibility: why ‘safe enough’ is not good enough in debates on new gene technologies

Publication date: 25/10/2022

To avoid past mistakes of under- or miscommunication about possible impacts, we need open, transparent, and inclusive societal debate on the nature of the science of gene (editing) technologies, on how to use them, and whether they contribute to sustainable solutions to societal and environmental challenges. To be trustworthy, GMO regulation must demonstrate the authorities’ ability to manage the scientific, socio-economic, environmental, and ethical complexities and uncertainties associated with NGTs. Regulators and authorities should give equal attention to the reflexive and the emotional aspects of trust and make room for honest public and stakeholder inclusion processes.

Resource type: article: Web Page

The principles driving gene drives for conservation

Publication date: 01/09/2022

Scientists are exploring potential gene drive applications for managing invasive species and building resilience in keystone species threatened by climate change. The possibility to use gene drive for these conservation purposes has triggered significant interest in how to govern its development and eventual applications. We conducted qualitative documentary analysis to examine the range and substance of principles emerging in the governance of conservation gene drive. Such analysis aimed to better understand the aspirations guiding these applications and how scientists and other experts imagine their responsibility in this field. We found a collection of recommendations and prescriptions that could be organised into a set of seven emerging principles intended to shape the governance of gene drive in conservation: broad and empowered engagement; public acceptance; decision-making informed by broad ranging considerations, state and international collaboration; ethical frameworks; diverse expertise; and responsible self-regulation by developers. We lay bare these emergent principles, analyzing the way in which they are valued, prioritized, and their strengths and weaknesses.

Resource type: article: Web Page

Imagined futures for livestock gene editing: Public engagement in the Netherlands

Publication date: 01/08/2022

While gene editing is commonly represented as offering unbounded possibilities and societal benefit, it remains unclear how to characterise public views and the process through which responses are developed. Rather than simply being about individual attitudes, beliefs or preferences, we explicate an interpretative approach that seeks to understand how people make sense of the technology in the form of shared cultural idioms and stories. Based on five anticipatory focus group discussions with Dutch publics, we found the prevalence of five narratives shaping public talk, namely, technological fix, the market rules, in pursuit of perfection, finding the golden mean and governance through care. We explore the implications of these findings for governance and reflect on the virtues of sophrosyne and phronesis as offering ways to reconfigure the practice and politics of gene editing.

Resource type: article: Web Page

Gene Drives in the UK, US, and Australian Press (2015–2019): How a New Focus on Responsibility Is Shaping Science Communication

Publication date: 25/01/2022
Gene drive is a controversial biotechnology for pest control. Despite a commitment from gene drive researchers to responsibility and the key role of the media in debates about science and technology, little research has been conducted on media reporting of gene drive. We employ metaphor and discourse analysis to explore how responsibility is reflected in the coverage of this technology in the U.S., U.K., and Australian press. The findings reveal a rhetorical strategy of trust-building by evoking the moral attributes of gene drive researchers. We discuss the implications of these findings for the communication of new technologies.
Resource type: article: Web Page

The complexity of the gene and the precision of CRISPR: What is the gene that is being edited?

Publication date: 26/10/2021
This article argues that the polarization around the governance of gene editing partly reflects a failure of public engagement with the current state of research in genomics and postgenomics. CRISPR-based gene-editing technology has become embedded in a narrow narrative about the ease and precision of the technique that presents the gene as a stable object under technological control. This narrative fails to position the “ease of CRISPR-based editing” into the wider context of the “complexity of the gene.” While this strategic narrowness of CRISPR narratives aims to create public support for gene-editing technologies, we argue that it stands in the way of socially desirable anticipatory governance and open public dialogue about societal promises and the unintended consequences of gene editing. In addressing the polarization surrounding CRISPR-based editing technology, the article emphasizes the need for engagement with the complex state of postgenomic science that avoids strategic simplifications of the scientific literature in promoting or opposing the commercial use of the gene-editing technology.

Resource type: article: Web Page

How to Do What Is Right, Not What Is Easy: Requirements for Assessment of Genome-Edited and Genetically Modified Organisms under Ethical Guidelines

Publication date: 24/06/2021

An ethical assessment is a complex, dynamic and comprehensive process that requires both ethical expertise and practical knowledge. An ethical assessment of a genetically modified organism (GMO, including genome edited organisms) must follow accepted and transparent methods and be based in relevant considerations. In addition, the Ethical guidelines must include a broad and adequate range of values, so that no groups, stakeholders, agents or areas are left out.

We recommend that ethical assessments of GMOs (including genome-edited organisms) are performed by professionals with competence and practical knowledge of ethical judgements, and that users, non-users, stakeholders and interest groups are actively involved. In addition, we recommend that the Ethical guidelines include a wide range of ethical values.

Resource type: article: Web Page

Democratizing CRISPR? Stories, practices, and politics of science and governance on the agricultural gene editing frontier

Publication date: 25/02/2020
Resource type: Adobe Acrobat (.pdf)

Promises and perils of gene drives: Navigating the communication of complex, post-normal science

Publication date: 16/04/2019

In November of 2017, an interdisciplinary panel discussed the complexities of gene drive applications as part of the third Sackler Colloquium on “The Science of Science Communication.” The panel brought together a social scientist, life scientist, and journalist to discuss the issue from each of their unique perspectives. This paper builds on the ideas and conversations from the session to provide a more nuanced discussion about the context surrounding responsible communication and decision-making for cases of post-normal science. Deciding to use gene drives to control and suppress pests will involve more than a technical assessment of the risks involved, and responsible decision-making regarding their use will require concerted efforts from multiple actors. We provide a review of gene drives and their potential applications, as well as the role of journalists in communicating the extent of uncertainties around specific projects. We also discuss the roles of public opinion and online environments in public engagement with scientific processes. We conclude with specific recommendations about how to address current challenges and foster more effective communication and decision-making for complex, post-normal issues, such as gene drives.

Resource type: Adobe Acrobat (.pdf)