Experts Assess the Impact of Risk Assessment on Public Acceptance of Gene-edited Crops
Modern biotechnology (transgenesis and gene editing) helps achieve an
increase in food production without the need for more land area for
agriculture. It is expected to continue contributing to achieving global
food production and thus it is necessary for this technology to be widely
accepted. For this reason, experts from DowDuPont published a review on how
government regulations of gene-edited crops and public acceptance of these
crops are affect each other.
The paper showed a comparison between the regulatory oversight of
traditional crops and genetically modified crops. Government authorities
rarely assessed traditional crops due to their remarkable track safety
records. As for genetically modified crops, some have suggested that the
rigorous regulatory oversight will instill consumer acceptance. However,
this contradicts with the history of GM crops' acceptance which exhibited
that arduous regulation has likely led to public distrust. This contributed
to the notion that GM crops are risky. But in reality, the risks are similar
to those of traditional crops'. Thus, the authors investigate if
risk-disproportionate regulation leads to the validation of the public's
fears and distrust towards controversial yet safe technologies.
The paper also states that risks are always involved when trying to gain the
public's trust towards an underlying technology. These risks include
confusing the purpose of risk assessment. For instance, when a voluminous
data on risk assessment is presented to meet regulatory requirements, the
real safety risks are not readily distinguishable from negligible risks.
Another risk mentioned was the obstruction of the delivery of beneficial
technologies to the market due to the time and cost it takes the developers
to gather non-risk based regulatory approvals.
It was concluded that separating the goal of regulating technologies to
protect public safety from the goal of attaining public acceptance may help
avoid the risk of meeting neither goals. The authors also emphasized that
education and outreach are a better use of government resources to gain
public acceptance of beneficial technologies. However, it was noted that
these efforts will be maximized if aimed at an audience who are willing to
consider new information instead of an audience who already believes that
they know everything about the technology. Factual communications from
trusted and reliable sources were also highlighted to oppose misinformation
commonly spread through social media.