Here we present the results of an expert survey on the added potential benefits of genome-edited crops compared to those developed through genetic modification (GM) and conventional breeding. Overall, survey results reveal a consensus among experts on the enhanced agronomic performance and product quality of genome-edited crops over alternatives.
The majority of experts indicated that the regulations for health and safety, followed by export markets, consumers, and the media play a major role in determining where and how NBTs, including genome editing, will be developed and used in agriculture.
The survey was completed by 114 respondents, resulting in a response rate of 22.5%. The sample is dominated by male subjects (79%), aged between 45 and 65 years (70%). Fifty-three percent of participants reside in North America, 28% in Europe, and the remainder from the rest of the world (4% from Africa, 6% from Asia, 4% from Oceania and 5% from Central and South America). Sixty-three percent identified themselves as scientists and 37% as non-scientists (government officials, agribusiness delegates, etc.). Forty percent work for industry, 26% for university, and 20% for government.
Overall, experts converged on a consensus that genome editing would offer better agronomic performance and product quality than the alternatives. Yet this does not imply that genome-editing technology is the ideal substitute for GM and CONV breeding techniques—they can and probably will coexist. GM and CONV still deliver important benefits, but genome editing would appear to deliver certain benefits better and faster thanks to its precision (advanced knowledge in genomics) and the potential lower regulatory oversight. Innovative plant breeding does not necessarily mean abandoning earlier breeding methods as different technologies might perform better than others for different breeding targets.
The primary finding of this research is that there is a consensus among experts on the expected greater agronomic performance and product quality of site-specific edited crops—those free from foreign DNA will be more competitive than GM and CONV counterparts. Such new crops have the potential to deliver a greater diversity of traits and varieties in a quicker and less costly way.
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