Illustrative image for Public Deliberation on Gene Editing in the Wild

Public Deliberation on Gene Editing in the Wild

Principal Investigators: Gregory Kaebnick, Michael Gusmano

Co-Investigators: Karen Maschke, Carolyn Neuhaus, Mildred Solomon

Funder: National Science Foundation

Initiatives are being developed to use gene editing technologies to modify populations of insects and other wild organisms, in some cases by creating and releasing large numbers of them and in some cases by means of gene drives that might force a modification from a few individual organisms through a population. The proposals have significant potential benefits, risks, and uncertainties, both for human welfare and for aspects of the shared environment that are valued in themselves. Given the values at stake, most commentators hold that the proposals require public engagement that takes a deliberative form — giving the public a chance to learn and think collectively about the proposals and shape policy decisions. A 2016 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine argued that such engagement should  in communities where organisms might be released, among larger groups of stakeholders, and among broader publics.

This project examined the rationale and the challenges of broad public deliberation on the use of genetic editing technologies to modify populations of wild organisms in the shared environment. The project addressed two overarching questions: For what kinds of proposals to modify populations of wild organisms should public deliberation be conducted, and how should it be conducted?

Publications and Curricular Materials from the Project:

Special Report: “Gene Editing in the Wild: Shaping Decisions Through Broad Public Deliberation,” November-December 2021

Case studies

Semester Course Syllabus

Short Course Syllabus

Short Course Slides

Science Policy & Values: Resources


The Elephant from Heaven and the Chicken from Hell,” Gregory E. Kaebnick, Bioethics Forum, September 16, 2021.

For Good Science, You Need Engaged Citizens,” Gregory E. Kaebnick and Michael K. Gusmano, Scientific American blog, July 22, 2021, .

“Release of Genetically Altered Mosquitoes in the Keys Needs Better Public Vetting Than It’s Had,” Gregory E. Kaebnick, Miami Herald, May 11, 2021.

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