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Why Wait? It’s Time to Talk Gene Editing

View the on-demand webinar Trust in Gene Editing: Your Company’s Future Depends on It.

Gene editing has tremendous potential in food and agriculture. Scientists are researching ways to use gene editing to prevent animals from suffering disease and to help plants adapt to climate change. It may one day be used to remove allergens from certain foods or to add nutrients to ingredients.

However, before the potential can be realized, the success of gene editing hinges on public support and acceptance. Researchers, scientists and the food system must be granted the social license from society to responsibly develop the technology. As more applications are developed and begin to enter the marketplace, it’s imperative that those using gene editing participate in an open, public dialogue about their commitment to responsible use.

For those who want to tell the story of agriculture and gene editing, a communication resource is available from The Coalition for Responsible Gene Editing in Agriculture. The Coalition was formed by CFI in 2016 as a partnership of diverse stakeholders who share a vision of global acceptance and support for the responsible use of gene editing in agriculture and food.

Opportunities are rich – not just for gene editing, but to dialogue with people about agriculture. CFI research has found that two out of three consumers want to know more about how their food is produced. More than half of consumers want to learn more about CRISPR, a type of gene editing.

The key is to engage in the most meaningful way. When discussing a scientific process such as gene editing, it would seem natural to discuss the technical and evidence-based details. But what consumers want first and foremost, according to CFI research, is to know that food producers care about the same things they do, which includes producing safe, affordable and nutritious food that protects and sustains our environment.

The communication guide provides ideas on how to engage. It was developed with input from other organizations that have conducted research on consumer understanding and attitudes about gene editing. Common threads from this research, along with previous learnings about the acceptance of biotechnology, were used to develop key components for the resource.

Five effective communication approaches were identified:

  1. Leverage expert spokespeople who are credentials and relatable, show integrity and share values.
  2. Connect to gene editing solutions for human health.
  3. Talk about evolution of genetic improvements, not revolution.
  4. Demonstrate benefits and values that align with public desires.
  5. Share analogies and visuals that explain science but are not over-simplified or condescending.

It’s time to make the most of the opportunities to have a dialogue about gene editing. To download the full resource, visit CFI’s gene editing site.