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Public Perception of Animal Biotechnology

Abstract

The commercialization of any product hinges on consumer acceptance. Genetic engineering has faced an uphill battle in this regard since the introduction of genetically engineered (GE) crops in the 1990s. Public perception of GE animals is generally negative, with biomedical applications being more positively perceived than agricultural applications. To date most GE animals have been developed in private or university laboratories for research purposes. Opposition to GE animals is often conflated with opposition to use of animals in research in general, as well as opposition to aspects of intensive animal agriculture. In general, concerns about animal biotechnology are influenced by (1) views around the moral status of animals, the boundary between “natural” and “unnatural,” and perceived risks and benefits of GE animals to health and the environment (personal and cultural characteristics); (2) the purpose of the application, the method(s) being used, and the motivation of the research group making the genetic modification (research characteristics); (3) the species being modified (animal characteristics). As such, it is difficult to generalize about public perception of GE animals as a discrete category. The first GE food animal approval, the AquAdvantage salmon, in 2015, followed years of regulatory delay partially resulting from the negative public perception of genetic engineering. There are a number of new animal applications in development, enabled by new methods, which specifically target traits for animal health and well-being. A nuanced consideration of these applications by those that are not intrinsically opposed to the technology may positively impact public perception of GE animals.

Keywords

  • Animal biotechnology
  • Transgenics
  • Genetic engineering (GE)
  • Emerging technology

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Acknowledgments

The authors acknowledge research funding support from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grant (BRAG) program, US Department of Agriculture, under award numbers 2011-68004-30367, 2013-68004-20364, 2015-67015-23316, 2015-33522-24106, and 2017-33522-27097-0.

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Correspondence to Alison L. Van Eenennaam .

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Van Eenennaam, A.L., Young, A.E. (2018). Public Perception of Animal Biotechnology. In: Niemann, H., Wrenzycki, C. (eds) Animal Biotechnology 2. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-92348-2_13

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