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Gene editing has tremendous potential for food, agriculture and animal well-being.
But what does that mean for me?
That’s a key question to keep in mind when having conversations about gene editing. The Coalition for Responsible Gene Editing in Agriculture developed a communication guide that shares tips for engaging in the conversation. Based on research from various organizations, the guide identified five effective communication approaches.
Benefits and Values
One of these approaches is to demonstrate benefits and values that align with public desires. What matters to consumers? The top three gene-editing benefits that they care about most are the environment, disease resistance and animal wellbeing.
Consumers of various age demographics consistently rated positively the phrase “producing more food with fewer resources – like using less water, land or other natural resources.” Often, those in agriculture talk about increased yields, but consumers aren’t that impressed unless they know you’re doing so in a sustainable way.
On the other end of the scale, the benefits that were less appealing to consumers were adding choice and variety to food selections, cosmetic changes – such as changing the color of fruit or preventing browning – and feeding the world.
Here are some ideas on how to discuss the potential uses of gene editing that relate to what consumers value most.
“Gene editing helps farmers keep pace with the growing demand for more and better food, while using less water, land, nutrients and other resources.”
“One of the most devastating diseases to pigs is called PRRS, which is an acronym for a virus that often is deadly. Through gene editing, we can eradicate this disease, reduce treatment needs, alleviate pigs’ suffering and produce more pork using fewer natural resources.”
“Improving plants to eliminate allergens means fewer people will have to worry about allergic reactions to food.”
It’s important for those in the food system to be involved in building trust in gene editing so that the industry has the social license to use the technology responsibly. To do that effectively will require taking off the “farmer hat” and thinking like a consumer.
- Instead of increased efficiency, discuss benefits to the environment, like protecting and conserving natural resources.
- Instead of increased productivity, share benefits to animals, like improving animal well-being and reducing disease.
- Instead of increased yields, share benefits to plants, like tolerance to disease and weather conditions.
There are many ways to engage in the conversation about gene editing. Download the full communication guide for more tips and suggestions.