Gene Drive Applications
to Agriculture in Texas
About the Project
Gene drive is a new genetic-based technology in the early stages of research. Among other potential applications, gene drive is being considered for managing agricultural pests. However, little is known about stakeholders’ and the public’s views on this technology. The gene drive study team seeks to understand the social impacts, perceived risks, underlying values, and behavioral responses of stakeholders and the public to gene drive technologies in agriculture.… The fundamental objective of the project is to assess the conditions for public and stakeholder engagement concerning the potential research, development, and use of gene drive technology in the management of agricultural pests in order to inform appropriate policy responses to gene drive in agriculture. The study team has devised a four-pronged approach to achieve its primary objective.
Outreach Meetings and Focus Groups
The team held outreach meetings and focus groups to engage with community and agricultural organizations regarding the potential use of gene drive to manage agricultural pests. Given the particular importance of agriculture in Texas, the team held these engagement activities throughout this state.… Members of the team and personnel from the Texas Integrated Pest Management Program and AgriLife Entomology Extension Program conducted these meetings during which they presented information on gene drive is and how it works, how and why it might be used to manage agricultural pests, and the potential downsides in using it. The presentations included hypothetical case studies on potential gene drive applications based on four pest species of particular importance in Texas. After the presentations, participants completed short evaluation surveys (linked above) that collected participants’ thoughts about the potential use of gene drive technology. Focus group discussions followed some of the outreach meetings. These resulted into in deeper insights into participants’ perceptions of gene drive technology. The team used the survey and focus group results to understand better what people know, think, and value in regards to how gene drive might be used and whether or not gene drive should be pursued for pest management. The team then used this information to shape the stakeholder and public surveys.
Key Informant Interviews
One of the challenges of agricultural policy and practice along the southern border is that actions taken on either side of the US-Mexico border typically have consequences on the other side as well. The release of gene drive pests in a border region may travel across the border and affect the pest or related species in the neighboring nation. … To identify crucial issues concerning bi-national spread, key informant interviews focused on Texas agricultural officials and Mexican biosafety experts. A team member interviewed a small number of governmental and nongovernmental officials of agricultural organizations in the Rio Grande Valley region and agricultural biotechnology experts in Mexico. Their responses, which included potential transboundary effects as seen in Mexico as well as the Texas and U.S. perspective, informed our broader engagement and survey activities and included.
The team conducted an online survey of individuals from stakeholder organizations (linked above) associated with agriculture and pest management in Texas. Given that most people have not heard anything about gene drive, the survey included a short video that provided basic information about gene drive, how gene drive might be used to manage agricultural pests, and potential outcomes of gene drive use.… Participants were asked questions that gauged their knowledge, perceptions, and values about the potential use of gene drive technology. The information gathered from this diverse set of stakeholders captured multiple viewpoints that can be evaluated to help inform research directions, policy decisions, and acceptable uses for gene drive. The team also used the results from this survey to inform the public surveys.
Public Opinion Surveys
The team conducted an online public opinion survey that was representative of both the U.S. national population and the Texas population. These surveys also included the video shown participants in the stakeholder survey. The surveys collected critical information about the public’s knowledge, perception, and values towards gene drive research, policy preferences, and acceptable applications.
Successful completion of this project will result in a comprehensive understanding of stakeholders’ and the public’s views about the potential use of gene drive to manage agricultural pests. The team will evaluate the information collected and develop… journal articles that advance theoretical understandings of the social, political, and economic context of emerging biotechnologies such as gene drive. The team will also prepare reports about the project that may be used by decision makers to help direct policy developments around gene drive.