The Norwegian GENEinnovate consortium has published the first report on Norwegian consumers attitudes towards the use of gene editing in livestock and crop plants in Norwegian agriculture and aquaculture.
The recently launched CBGP-S3-Forum planned to organize the Workshop “Novel Genome Editing Technologies: Evolution and Revolution” on past March 31st, but it was postponed due to COVID-19 pandemia. The CBGP-S3-Forum aiming to provide the social/scientific environment to discuss about scientific/technological progresses and legal policies that will be essential for the development of a more sustainable agriculture. In the postponed workshop, we were planning to discuss about the potential of new breeding techniques, like genome editing, on agriculture and the different legal scenarios for commercialization of genome-edited products. Genome editing policy is currently an issue of great interest since the Council of the European Union has requested the European Commission to submit a study, by 30 April 2021, regarding the status of new genomic techniques under Union law [Council Decision (EU) 2019/1904].
One of our invited speakers to the CBGP-S3-Forum, Sigrid Bratlie, has led the first report on Norwegian consumers´s attitudes towards the use of gene editingin livestock and crop plants, that she was planning to present in our CBGP-S3-Forum. Sigrid Bratlie is former Senior Advisor at the Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board, and now Special Advisor at the Norwegian Agricultural Cooperatives and project member of GENEinnovate.
The Norwegian GENEinnovate consortium, a collaboration between Norsvin, Geno, AquaGen, Graminor, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) and the Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board, has published the first report on Norwegian consumers´s attitudes towards the use of gene editing in livestock and crop plants in Norwegian agriculture and aquaculture. The knowledge obtained in this report will be used as a steering tool for the industry-led research project GENEinnovate, of which the survey is a part. In addition, a good knowledge base can contribute to an informed public debate and future-oriented policy.
The main conclusions from this population survey are that the majority of Norwegian consumers are positive about sustainable and societally beneficial use of gene editing in Norwegian agriculture and aquaculture. However, many consumers are concerned about risk, although they have fairly high confidence that gene edited products approved by the Norwegian authorities are safe for health and the environment. Consumers also want information about product traits that makes it easier for them to choose. The results also show that there is a need for knowledge building about genetic technology and food in the general population
Some of the key findings are summarized below. You will have the opportunity to know about the details in the report that they will public shortly:
- Norwegian consumers know quite a lot about genetically modified food, but only about half have heard about gene editing (often called CRISPR).
- Norwegian consumers' attitudes toward the use of gene editing depend on the purpose and what the product it is used for. The majority are positive about using gene editing in Norwegian agriculture and aquaculture for purposes that are perceived to promote societal benefit and sustainability: reducing pesticide use and crop losses in plants (including organic food production), climate adaptation of crop plants, increasing nutrient content in crop plants, increasing crop plant yields, improving animal and fish health and reducing the environmental impact of the aquaculture industry.
- Most are somewhat or very worried that the use of gene editing in plants or livestock could pose risks to health and the environment.
- Consumers’ attitudes and levels of trust depends on who is behind the development of products. Consumers are more positive about gene edited products developed by Norwegian researchers and breeding companies for the Norwegian market, and they trust that they are safe for health and the environment when they have been approved by Norwegian authorities.
- A large majority of consumers think that labelling is important, but the label should also contain information about which genetic technology has been used, why it was used and which trait has been changed.
- More consumers think that it may be unethical not to use gene editing to address important societal challenges than those who do not.
- Norwegian consumers regard gene editing and genetic modification as more unnatural than traditional breeding, but they do not distinguish between the two types of genetic technology in terms of naturalness.
- Knowledge is crucial for acceptance and trust. Our results indicate that Norwegian consumers with the most knowledge about genetic engineering and genetics are the most positive about using gene editing in agriculture and aquaculture and have the most trust in product developers and authorities that approve products.
About the Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board
It is an independent body appointed by the government that gives advice on issues concerning the use of biotechnology and genetic engineering and contributes to public information and debate.
About Sigrid Bratlie
Special advisor on gene technology for the Norwegian Agricultural Cooperatives and the Norwegian Cancer Society. She has worked with biotech science and policy for several years. During her time as a Senior advisor at the Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board for the past five years, she leads the work on developing a proposal for a novel GMO regulatory framework that will be discussed during her talk. Sigrid closely follows the cutting edge of biotech R&D, in particular gene editing, and spends a lot of her time on science communication and public dialogue. She is also a primary resource on aspects concerning sustainable use of gene editing, legislation and policy, in particular to the Norwegian government. She also participates in several international policy forums. Sigrid is a molecular biologist by training, with a degree in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow and Imperial College London, UK, and a Phd from the Institute for Cancer Research at the Norwegian Radium Hospital for which she was awarded the Kings gold medal.