CRISPR rice vs GM rice: which would you buy?

Rice_grains_(IRRI)Just imagine you could find them all on the supermarket shelves, would you buy rice labeled as CRISPR or GMO, or stick to conventional non-genetically modified rice? And what price would you consider fair? Aaron Shew and colleagues from the University of Arkansas conducted a multi-country assessment of willingness-to-pay for and willingness-to-consume a hypothetical CRISPR-produced food and published their findings in Global Food Security.

Admittedly they have selected a potentially controversial product, as rice is a field-to-table crop, consumed with little post-harvest processing. They even chose glyphosate resistance for their hypothetical biotech varieties, a trait much appreciated by farmers but opposed by environmentalists and giving no clear benefits to consumers.

Furthermore descriptions given to the respondents are questionable, but the results are very interesting anyway. In the USA, Canada, Belgium, France, and Australia, 56, 47, 46, 30, and 51% of subjects, respectively, indicated they would consume both GM and CRISPR food. Biotechnology familiarity and perceptions of safety were the primary drivers for willingness-to-consume.

Moreover, respondents valued CRISPR and GM food similarly, substantially less than conventional food. This is not what CRISPR enthusiasts would hope for, but it’s a useful reminder that it makes no sense for regulators to focus on the way a product was produced rather than its final characteristics. The full text is here, diagrams and maps included.

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