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PLoS One. 2019 May 10;14(5):e0216542. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0216542. eCollection 2019.

Public attitudes towards genetically modified polled cattle.

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Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Laboratorio de Etologia Aplicada e Bem-Estar Animal, Departamento de Zootecnia e Desenvolvimento Rural, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, Brazil.
Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.


Genetic modification of farm animals has not been well accepted by the public. Some modifications have the potential to improve animal welfare. One such example is the use of gene editing (i.e. CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)) to spread the naturally occurring POLLED gene, as these genetically hornless animals would not need to experience the painful procedures used to remove the horns or horn buds. The aim of the current study was to assess public attitudes regarding the use of GM to produce polled cattle. United States (US) citizens (n = 598), recruited via Amazon Mechanical Turk, were asked "Do you think genetically modifying cows to be hornless would be…", and responded using a 7-point Likert scale (1 = a very bad thing, 4 = neither good nor bad, 7 = a very good thing). Participants were then asked to indicate if they would be willing to consume products from these modified animals. We excluded 164 of the original 598 participants for not completing the survey, failing any of three attention check questions, or providing no or unintelligible qualitative responses. Respondents were then asked to provide a written statement explaining their answers; these reasons were subjected to qualitative analysis. Comparison of Likert scale ratings between two groups was done using the Wilcoxon rank-sum test, and comparisons between more than two groups were done using the Kruskal-Wallis rank test. More people responded that the modification would be good (Likert ≥ 5; 65.7%) than bad (Likert ≤ 3; 23.1%), and that they would be willing to consume products from these animals (Likert ≥ 5; 66.0%) versus not consume these products (Likert ≤ 3; 22.6%). Qualitative analysis of the text responses showed that participant reasoning was based on several themes including animal welfare, uncertainty about the technology, and worker well-being. In conclusion, many participants reported positive attitudes towards GM polled cattle; we suggest that people may be more likely to support GM technologies when these are perceived to benefit the animal.

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Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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