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Genet Med. 2019 Oct;21(10):2184-2189. doi: 10.1038/s41436-019-0482-5. Epub 2019 Apr 12.

CRISPR in the North American popular press.

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Health Law Institute, Faculty of Law, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada.
Biomedical Ethics Research Program and Center for Regenerative Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA.
School of Public Health, University of Montreal, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Faculty of Law and School of Public Health, Health Law Institute, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada.



CRISPR is often called one of the century's most important discoveries and is commonly discussed in terms of its momentous potential impacts. This study analyzed how CRISPR is discussed in the North American popular press, including how it is defined, and which benefits and risks/concerns are attributed to the technology.


Using the Factiva database, we identified 228 relevant, nonduplicated articles containing either "CRISPR" or "C.R.I.S.P.R.," published in popular US and Canadian news sources between 1 January 2012 and 12 July 2017. Content analysis was performed on the articles.


CRISPR is most often discussed in the context of human health (83.8%), compared with animals (26.3%) and plants (20.6%). Nearly all articles (96.1%) presented CRISPR's potential benefits; 61.4% of articles presented CRISPR-related risks/concerns, the vast majority of which focused on the uncertainty surrounding CRISPR, specifically with respect to germline modifications.


Overall, the discourse suggests a strong promotion of CRISPR, but an element of caution is also evident. Technical as well as ethical, legal, and social risks/concerns play a prominent role. This media portrayal of CRISPR might help facilitate more sophisticated and balanced policy responses, where the scientific potential of the technology is highlighted alongside broader social considerations.


CRISPR; ELSI; biotechnology; gene editing; media

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