2 in 5 dairy farmers believe cows should not be genetically engineered to reduce disease susceptibility. What might change their minds?

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Credit: Norwegian Red
Credit: Norwegian Red

[E]ven before the consumer sees a product on the grocery shelf… farmers’ decisions can make or break a technology’s chance of making it to stores. 

Our recent study surveyed over 500 American dairy farmers on their willingness to adopt gene-edited genetics in their herds. We asked farmers about a Johne’s disease resistance application in particular and found, overall, that farmers weren’t ready or willing to adopt gene-edited genetics. This resistance was motivated by a variety of factors. In our sample, 42% of farmers believed that animals shouldn’t be genetically engineered or gene-edited, regardless of the application.

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At the top of the list is a concern that consumers won’t accept dairy products from gene-edited cows, a top concern shared by 63.4% of farmers in our study. Other key concerns shared by about a third of farmers are a potential loss of market access for milk from gene-edited cows from wary consumers, a reduction in milk price, and the perception that gene-edited genetics are simply unnatural. For the companies hoping to get this technology on the market, these concerns represent the main hurdles that they’ll need to address to get the technology past the first gatekeepers of the market.

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