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Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes: What the Public Thinks

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Researchers from NC State University have conducted the first nationally representative survey in the United States to gauge public opinion on the use of genetic manipulations to drive down mosquito populations and related diseases.

While public support varies, depending on how the mosquitoes are characterized, a plurality opposes the effort when potential risks are explained.

“We wanted to know what the public thinks about this issue, since modified mosquitoes are already being released in other parts of the world, and are under consideration for use in the U.S.,” says Dr. Michael Cobb, an associate professor of political science at NC State who oversaw the poll. “We found that giving people accurate information about how this process works increases their support for the concept, but support is also contingent on the label used to describe these mosquitoes.”

Dr. Andrew Binder, an assistant professor of communication, helped author the survey questions. “The survey findings are an excellent example of how public attitudes toward novel scientific innovations are far from fixed,” he says. “But even if people haven’t formed concrete opinions about this technology, that does not diminish the importance of engaging in transparent and honest communication about the nature of the mosquitoes and their potential risks.”

Read all about this buzzing issue and the national survey on the NC State News Room site. You can also learn more about NC State’s interdisciplinary Graduate Studies in Genetic Engineering and Society and its focus on mosquitoes and human health.