Consumer understanding of genome editing ‘essential’ – BfR

By Katy Askew contact

- Last updated on GMT

Risk communication must improve before consumers will accept genome editing technology ©Gio_tto/iStock
Risk communication must improve before consumers will accept genome editing technology ©Gio_tto/iStock

Related tags: Dna, Genetically modified food, Molecular biology, Bfr

Educating consumers about the nature of emerging genome editing methodology and appropriate risk communication will be “essential” to developing a public discourse around this new technology, according to German research and scientific advisory body BfR.

BfR conducted 39 focus group interviews to gauge the attitudes and general awareness of genome editing techniques among German consumers.

"Although the respondents were hardly aware of genome editing and knew little about these technologies, the majority of them reject the use of these methods in the food sector,"​ noted BfR president Professor Dr Andreas Hensel. "This shows just how important it is to keep the general public informed about the latest findings in risk assessment.”

Genome editing – also known as new plant breeding techniques (NPBT) – involve molecular biological tools that cut the genome of a plant in specific locations. “The CRISPR/Cas9 method, with the help of which the genome can be specifically modified, promises to be particularly successful at the moment,”​ BfR noted.

The system works with the native characteristics of a crop and does not introduce new genes. Proponents argue that this means the new biotechnology poses fewer risk factors than genetic modification, which is heavily regulated in the European Union.

The process is frequently compared to a more targeted form of traditional crop breeding techniques.

“It opens up a variety of new application options. Its use in agriculture is being discussed, for example, in the development of disease-resistant plant varieties,”​ BfR noted.

The legal status of genome editing is still under discussion and regulators have not reached a ruling over whether the process should be subject to the stringent laws governing GMOs.

Public perception

The results of the focus group interviews suggest that German consumers view genome editing methods as a form of genetic engineering and associate the process with the same reservations.

“In the food sector, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages in the opinion of the participants and the use of genome editing is rejected by the majority for this reason,”​ BfR noted.

Participants “clearly demand”​ a labelling obligation for foods produced with the help of genome editing. They also expect its strict regulation by the responsible authorities.

However, amid this trepidation, BfR said that it also became clear that the participants “know little about the methods of genome editing”​.

“They would like to see public clarification of the methods in order to open up an informed public discourse. It is essential for future risk communication strategies that this consumer demand for information be met.”

For our analysis of whether genome editing techniques should be included in GMO legislation click here.

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more

Why Food and Beverage Companies are “Pigging”

Why Food and Beverage Companies are “Pigging”

Hygienic Pigging Systems Ltd | 18-Aug-2021 | Technical / White Paper

Liquid product recovery (“pigging”) systems are widely used during the manufacture, processing, and packaging of food and beverages.
Pigging recovers...

19 Pocket Cards with Essential Kjeldahl Knowledge

19 Pocket Cards with Essential Kjeldahl Knowledge

BÜCHI Labortechnik AG | 26-Jul-2021 | Technical / White Paper

With our free cue cards, keep essential knowledge of the Kjeldahl method with theory and tips right at your fingertips, for quick and easy referral. Cover...

How to Enter UK’s £690M CBD Market

How to Enter UK’s £690M CBD Market

The Association for the Cannabinoid Industry | 18-Jun-2021 | Technical / White Paper

The UK has the world’s most developed regulatory framework for legal cannabinoids, such as CBD and CBG. With a 2021 market estimated to be worth £690 million...

Related suppliers

1 comment

Genome editing and public understanding.

Posted by DJA,

I think that the article is correct in its recommendations, but much too late in the day. The Luddites have bombarded the public with unsubstantiated negative claims well well ahead of you.

Report abuse

Follow us


View more