Does the U.S. public support using gene drives in agriculture? And what do they want to know?

Jones, MSD, Jason A.; Elsensohn, Johanna; Mitchell, Paul D.; Brown, Zachary S.,  Science Advances,  5:eaau8462. 2019.

Gene drive development is progressing more rapidly than our understanding of public values toward these technologies. We analyze a statistically representative survey (n = 1018) of U.S. adult attitudes toward agricultural gene drives. When informed about potential risks, benefits, and two previously researched applications, respondents’ support/opposition depends heavily (+22%/?19%) on whether spread of drives can be limited, non-native versus native species are targeted (+12%/?9%), or the drive replaces versus suppresses target species (±2%). The one-fifth of respondents seeking out non–GMO–labeled food are more likely to oppose drives, although their support exceeds opposition for limited applications. Over 62% trust U.S. universities and the Department of Agriculture to research gene drives, with the private sector and Department of Defense viewed as more untrustworthy. Uncertain human health and ecological effects are the public’s most important concerns to resolve. These findings can inform responsible innovation in gene drive development and risk assessment.