Risk perception of genome editing: Reservations and a great demand for informationNovember 14, 2017
The attitudes of people in Germany towards these newer methods have hardly been examined scientifically up to now. As it is of fundamental importance for appropriate risk communication to have knowledge of the attitudes and level of awareness of the general public, the BfR conducted focus group interviews within the scope of a study (in German). "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," says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "This shows just how important it is to keep the general public informed about the latest findings in risk assessment".
Modifications to genetic information are a part of life. In conventional plant cultivation and animal breeding, humans use methods to increase the natural mutation rate so that they can select new varieties or strains with useful properties from among the mutants. Certain newer molecular biological methods which have become known under the generic term genome editing do not differ in this regard from conventional cultivation and breeding. One decisive difference is though, that with the genome editing method, very specific modifications can be introduced to the genome of the target organism. The CRISPR/Cas9 method, with the help of which the genome can be specifically modified, promises to be particularly successful at the moment. 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, as well as in medicine. Lawmakers have not yet decided how genome editing is to be classified from a legal point of view.
The BfR is dealing with the subject of genome editing from a scientific point of view. It is also preparing recommendations and measures for risk communication, but knowledge of consumers' attitudes towards the subject is essential here. Moderated group discussions, so-called focus group interviews, permit an insight into the concrete points of view, attitudes and potential concerns of the general public.
Against this backdrop, the BfR formed and interviewed focus groups with a total of 39 participants of both genders. The interviews gave an insight into what consumers currently know about genome editing and which factors dominate their risk-benefit deliberations. It was also determined how the participants classify genome editing in relation to conventional genetic engineering and what their needs for information and regulation are.
The essential results are that, irrespective of the legal classification which has not yet been made, the interview participants see genome editing methods as a form of genetic engineering and they have similar reservations about them for this reason. 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. The 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. This looks a bit different in the medical sector, where use is acceptable for many because a necessity and therapeutic benefits are apparent. The age of the respondents also plays a role in the assessment of genome editing: younger people were more positive and open to the new methods than older people.
It also became clear that the participants know little about the methods of genome editing. At the same time though, 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.
The report on the research project appeared under the heading "Durchführung von Fokusgruppen zur Wahrnehmung des Genome Editings (CRISPR/Cas9)" (in German) as Volume 04/2017 in the BfR-Wissenschaft series. Print versions can be requested at email@example.com for 5 euros. The option also exists of downloading and printing out the report for free. It can be accessed on the BfR homepage under the menu item Publications/BfR-Wissenschaft, where you will also find an overview of all of the other publications that appeared in the BfR-Wissenschaft series.
BfR Federal Institute for Risk Assessment
Related Genome Articles:
An international consortium, with the participation of the Helmholtz Zentrum München, Plant Genome and Systems Biology Department (PGSB), has published methodologically significant data on the barley genome.
Looking for a better beer or single malt Scotch whiskey?
Chronic lung infections can be devastating for patients with cystic fibrosis (CF), and infection by Burkholderia cenocepacia, one of the most common species found in cystic fibrosis patients, is often antibiotic resistant.
Cells face a daunting task. They have to neatly pack a several meter-long thread of genetic material into a nucleus that measures only five micrometers across.
A study by San Diego Zoo Global reveals that the prospects for recovery of the critically endangered northern white rhinoceros -- of which only three individuals remain -- will reside with the genetic resources that have been banked at San Diego Zoo Global's Frozen Zoo®.
Precise, economical genome editing tools such as CRISPR have made it possible to make targeted changes in genes, which could be applied to human embryos to correct mutations, prevent disease, or alter traits.
How do pathogens such as bacteria or parasites manage to hide from their host's immune system?
An international team of scientists, led by researchers from A*STAR's Genome Institute of Singapore and the Bioinformatics Institute, have developed SIFT 4G (SIFT for Genomes) -- a software that can lead to faster genome analysis.
Single-cell techniques have been used to investigate histone replacement and chromatin remodeling in developing oocytes.
Dinoflagellates live free-floating in the ocean or symbiotically with corals, serving up -- or as -- lunch to a host of mollusks, tiny fish and coral species.
Related Genome Reading:
Genome (The Extinction Files Book 2)
by A.G. Riddle (Author)
The thrilling conclusion to THE EXTINCTION FILES is finally here!
* * *
A code hidden in the human genome...
Will reveal the ultimate secret of human existence.
And could hold humanity's only hope of survival.
* * *
In 2003, the first human genome was sequenced. But the secrets it held were never revealed.
The truth was discovered thirty years ago, almost by accident. Dr. Paul Kraus had spent his entire career searching for what he called humanity's lost tribes--human ancestors who had gone extinct. When... View Details
Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters
by Matt Ridley (Author)
The genome's been mapped.
But what does it mean?
Arguably the most significant scientific discovery of the new century, the mapping of the twenty-three pairs of chromosomes that make up the human genome raises almost as many questions as it answers. Questions that will profoundly impact the way we think about disease, about longevity, and about free will. Questions that will affect the rest of your life.
Genome offers extraordinary insight into the ramifications of this incredible breakthrough. By picking one newly discovered gene from each pair of chromosomes and... View Details
The Mysterious World of the Human Genome
by Frank Ryan (Author)
The human genome is indeed a mysterious world, but, as this fascinating book shows, its vital secrets are now being uncovered. The latest studies are revealing exciting new discoveries, such as how the DNA and related chemical compounds in our cells work together to direct the processes of life. Scientists are not only unraveling how life evolved in the ancient past, but are also finding the keys to creating a healthier future.
How does the minuscule chemical cluster in each of our 100 trillion cells accomplish the amazing feat of creating and maintaining our bodies? Frank Ryan, a... View Details
Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science
by Scot McKnight (Author), Dennis R. Venema (Author), Daniel Harrell (Afterword), Tremper Longman III (Afterword)
Genomic science indicates that humans descend not from an individual pair but from a large population. What does this mean for the basic claim of many Christians: that humans descend from Adam and Eve?
Leading evangelical geneticist Dennis Venema and popular New Testament scholar Scot McKnight combine their expertise to offer informed guidance and answers to questions pertaining to evolution, genomic science, and the historical Adam. Some of the questions they explore include:
- Is there credible evidence for evolution?
- Do we descend from a population or are we the offspring of... View Details
The Gene: An Intimate History
by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Author)
THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A New York Times Notable Book
A Washington Post and Seattle Times Best Book of the Year
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies—a fascinating history of the gene and “a magisterial account of how human minds have laboriously, ingeniously picked apart what makes us tick” (Elle).
“Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee dazzled readers with his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Emperor of All Maladies in 2010. That achievement was evidently just a warm-up for... View Details
by T. A. Brown (Author)
Genomes 4 has been completely revised and updated. It is a thoroughly modern textbook about genomes and how they are investigated. As with Genomes 3, techniques come first, then genome anatomies, followed by genome function, and finally genome evolution. The genomes of all types of organism are covered: viruses, bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals including humans and other hominids.
Genome sequencing and assembly methods have been thoroughly revised including a survey of four genome projects: human, Neanderthal, giant panda, and barley. Coverage of... View Details
Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters (P.S.) 1st (first) edition
by Matt Ridley (Author)
The Genome: A Novel
by Sergei Lukyanenko (Author)
A science fiction thriller by the author of Night Watch, the hit novel that inspired two major motion pictures
Five months after the horrific accident that left him near death and worried that he’d never fly again, master-pilot Alex Romanov lands a new job: captaining the sleek passenger vessel Mirror. Alex is a spesh—a human who has been genetically modified to perform particular tasks. As a captain and pilot, Alex has a genetic imperative to care for passengers and crew—no matter what the cost.
His first mission aboard Mirror is to... View Details
Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes
by Svante Pääbo (Author)
"[T]his book is a vibrant testimonial to what might be the greatest creation of modern humans: the scientific method." --Salon
Neanderthal Man tells the story of geneticist Svante Pääbo's mission to answer this question: what can we learn from the genomes of our closest evolutionary relatives? Beginning with the study of DNA in Egyptian mummies in the early 1980s and culminating in the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome in 2010, Neanderthal Man describes the events, intrigues, failures, and triumphs of these scientifically rich years through the lens of... View Details
The Developing Genome: An Introduction to Behavioral Epigenetics
by David S. Moore (Author)
Why do we grow up to look, act, and feel as we do? Through most of the twentieth century, scientists and laypeople answered this question by referring to two factors alone: our experiences and our genes. But recent discoveries about how genes work have revealed a new way to understand the developmental origins of our characteristics. These discoveries have emerged from the new science of behavioral epigenetics--and just as the whole world has now heard of DNA, "epigenetics" will be a household word in the near future.
Behavioral epigenetics is important because it explains how our... View Details