What people’s beef is with gene editing?

Australian cattle

Gene editing in the beef industry could provide significant new strategies for producing far superior livestock. It could be used to produce cattle that are heathier, more environmentally resilient and allow for higher levels of animal welfare by eliminating the need for painful common procedures.

But across both the public, and critically, producers, there’s resistance to gene editing because it’s new technology and concerns persist that the possible risks are greater than potential benefits. Many people also question how its use will be adequately monitored and regulated.

A new University of Adelaide research project seeks to understand community attitudes to gene editing in the red meat sector, to help producers and farming organisations understand how best to consider how it might be utilised in the future.

Led by Professor Rachel Ankeny, the team have gathered detailed data on community fears and hopes for the use of gene technologies in livestock in Australia, in the first national study on this topic.

“Rather than introducing a technology then seeing if people accept it (or protest against it), our research in collaboration with industry takes a proactive approach to testing and deploying new technologies that incorporates a broader range of stakeholders’ views and concerns into these considerations, including the general public, meat consumers, and producers,” says Professor Ankeny.

This research has proven the value of being engaged and taking a proactive approach when developing and launching new technologies.

“Our research discovered that technical details matter much less than the values that inform people’s views on what they see as important for their everyday lives,” she says. 

What’s next?

Understanding how people view gene editing will allow red meat producers to shape their industry research priorities to meet the changing tastes of Australian consumers.

These research methods will also be useable in other complex contexts related to technology, food, and values, where community perspectives are critical particularly during the research planning stages.

Featured researcher

Professor Rachel Ankeny
School of Humanities
Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Economics 
The University of Adelaide 

Tagged in Societal wellbeing, Environment, sustainability and climate change, health, Agriculture, food and wine