Using citizen science to explore plant breeding and investigate food-chain transparency for novel breeding methods
- Start date: 10 January 2022
- End date: 10 July 2022
- Funder: UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)
- Principal investigator: Dr Gulbanu Kaptan
- Co-investigators: Professor Huw Jones (Aberystwyth University), Professor Edgar Meyer and Dr Joshua Weller (Leeds University Business School). External consultant: Professor Baruch Fischhoff (Carnegie Mellon University, USA).
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.
In partnership with the British Plant Breeding Society, 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).
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
- Dr Kaptan contributed to, and externally reviewed, the Parliamentary POSTnote on genome-edited crops.
- Paper: Bearth A, Kaptan G, Kessler SH. 2022. Genome-edited versus genetically-modified tomatoes: An experiment on people’s perceptions and acceptance of food biotechnology in the UK and Switzerland. Agriculture and Human Values, March 2022.
- Webinar: “People’s acceptance of food biotechnology in the UK and Switzerland: Gene editing vs genetic modification”, The Global Food and Environment Institute, March 2021.
- UKRI news: Researchers join forces with the public to investigate food safety