Nav: Home

Most Americans accept genetic engineering of animals that benefits human health

August 16, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Aug. 16, 2018) - Americans' views of possible uses of genetic engineering in animals vary depending on the mechanism and intended purpose of the technology, particularly the extent to which it would bring health benefits to humans, according to a new study released today by Pew Research Center.

Presented with five different scenarios of animal genetic engineering that are currently available, in development or considered possible in the future, Americans provide majority support only for the two that have clear potential to pre-empt or ameliorate human illness. Seven-in-ten Americans believe that genetically engineering mosquitoes to prevent their reproduction - thus limiting the spread of some mosquito-borne diseases - would be an appropriate use of technology, and a 57% majority considers it appropriate to genetically engineer animals to grow organs or tissues that could be used for humans needing a transplant.

However, other uses of animal biotechnology are less acceptable to the public, according to the nationally representative survey of 2,537 U.S. adults conducted April 23-May 6. Those applications are the creation of more nutritious meat for human consumption (43% say this is appropriate) or restoring an extinct animal species from a closely related species (32% say this is appropriate).

And one use of animal biotechnology that is already commercially available is largely met with resistance: Just 21% of Americans consider it an appropriate use of technology to genetically engineer aquarium fish to glow, while 77% say this is taking technology too far.

Those who objected to the use of genetic engineering of animals often raised the possibility of unknown risks for animals, humans or the ecosystem. Some saw these technologies as humankind inappropriately interfering with the natural world or raised general concerns about unknown risks. For instance, when invited to explain their views, those who opposed the idea of reviving extinct species often raised concerns about unintended harm to the ecosystem.

About three-in-ten of those who said genetic engineering of mosquitoes would be taking technology too far explained that humankind would be disrupting nature (23%) or interfering with God's plan (8%). Some 24% raised concerns about the possible impact on the ecosystem.

Other findings include:
  • Men tend to be more accepting of animal genetic engineering than women.
  • About two-thirds of men (65%) see genetic engineering of animals to grow human organs or tissues for transplants as appropriate, compared with about half of women (49%).
  • 54% of men say that using biotechnology to produce more nutritious meat is appropriate, compared with 34% of women.
  • But roughly equal shares of men (72%) and women (68%) say genetic engineering of mosquitoes to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses is appropriate.
Those with high science knowledge tend to be more accepting of animal genetic engineering than those with medium or low science knowledge.
  • Americans with high science knowledge (72%) are more inclined than those with medium (55%) or low (47%) science knowledge to say that genetic engineering of animals to grow human organs or tissues for transplants is appropriate.
  • High-science-knowledge adults also are more inclined (47%) than those with medium (28%) or low (26%) science knowledge to say that genetic engineering of animals to revive extinct species is appropriate.
Those low in religious commitment tend to be more accepting of animal genetic engineering than those with medium or high levels of religious commitment.
  • A larger share of Americans with low religious commitment (68%) than with medium (54%) or high (48%) religious commitment consider genetic engineering of animals to grow human organs or tissues for transplants to be appropriate.
  • Those with low religious commitment (44%) also are more likely than those with medium (29%) or high (21%) religious commitment to consider it appropriate to genetically engineer animals to bring back extinct species.
The survey also finds that the 52% of Americans who oppose the use of animals in scientific research are also more inclined to consider genetic engineering of animals as taking technology too far.
To read the report click here:

For more information or to arrange an interview, please call 202-419-4372 or email Haley Nolan at

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It does not take policy positions. The Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. Subscribe to our daily and weekly email newsletters or follow us on our Fact Tank blog.

Pew Research Center

Related Biotechnology Articles:

Biotechnology to the rescue of Brussels sprouts
An international team has identified the genes that make these plants resistant to the pathogen that attacks crops belonging to the cabbage family all over the world.
UM professor co-authors report on the use of biotechnology in forests
University of Montana Professor Diana Six is one of 12 authors of a new report that addresses the potential for biotechnology to provide solutions for protecting forest trees from insect and pathogen outbreaks, which are increasing because of climate change and expanded global trade.
Faster genome evolution methods to transform yeast for industrial biotechnology
A research team led by Prof. DAI Junbiao at the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology (SIAT) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with Prof.
New innovations in cell-free biotechnology
Professor Michael Jewett's new platform to conduct cell-free protein synthesis could lead to improved quality of manufactured protein therapeutics and biomaterials.
Silk 'micrococoons' could be used in biotechnology and medicine
Microscopic versions of the cocoons spun by silkworms have been manufactured by a team of researchers.
More Biotechnology News and Biotechnology Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...