Using citizen science to explore plant breeding and investigate food-chain transparency for novel breeding methods

Small plant in the ground with biochemistry graphic overlay


Plant breeding has been practised for millennia to produce genetically improved species; for example, to make precursors of today’s well-known crops such as maize, wheat and apples more resistant to diseases, higher-yielding, and more nutritious. However, the science of plant breeding is moving so fast that most consumers have had little opportunity to learn about it.  Our project is designed to listen to consumers, in order to learn which issues most interest them and how to make that science available in a usable, trustworthy way.

Gene editing is a laboratory technique that results in genetic changes equivalent to those used in traditional plant breeding. However, it is a more advanced technology than traditional breeding and genetic modification, with the potential to help produce abundant and healthy food with a less negative impact on the environment.

The implementation and continued use of novel food technologies depend, in part, on public acceptance of the technology. Although risk and benefit perceptions have been found as important drivers of consumer acceptance of different food technologies, recent research concludes that knowledge, as well as perceived trust in institutions and supply chains, influence public acceptance either directly or indirectly via risk or benefit perceptions. In relation to building knowledge, this cannot be achieved by sharing subject-specific information on one occasion but rather gradually with deliberative, participatory, and transparent approaches.

Research Overview 

In partnership with the British Society of Plant Breeders, the research team will work with citizens to improve the public’s knowledge on plant breeding and novel breeding methods, and understand the needs regarding a transparent food system that involves the implementation of novel technologies.

This project is funded by the UKRI and The Food Standards Agency (FSA). Further funding was supplied by the Leeds University Business School Impact Leadership Award (March – July 2022). 


The outcomes of the project will inform policies that ensure the successful integration of novel plant breeding methods into the UK food system.

Publications and outputs


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