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. 2019 Jun 24;14(6):e0218176.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0218176. eCollection 2019.

Is Gene Editing an Acceptable Alternative to Castration in Pigs?

Free PMC article

Is Gene Editing an Acceptable Alternative to Castration in Pigs?

Maria Cristina Yunes et al. PLoS One. .
Free PMC article


Male piglets are commonly castrated to eliminate the risk of boar taint. Surgical castration is the commonly used procedure and is known to induce pain. Gene modification targeted at eliminating boar taint in male pigs has been proposed as a possible alternative to surgical castration. The aims of this study were to explore public acceptability of this biotechnology using a mixed methods approach. Quantitative data to assess acceptability of 570 participants from southern Brazil were analysed with multinomial logistic regression models and Spearman correlations; qualitative responses of the reasons provided in support of their position were coded into themes. Just over half of the participants (56%) considered gene modification of male pigs acceptable. Acceptability was lower among participants who grew up in an agricultural environment (ρ = 0.02), but was not influenced by sex, age, religion, urban or rural living, or level of education. Acceptability of gene modification of male pigs as an alternative to surgical castration was positively related to the perception of benefits (r = -0.56, ρ<0.0001) and negatively related to the participant's perception of risks (r = -0.35, ρ<0.0001). Acceptability was not related to knowledge of basic concepts of genetic biotechnologies (r = 0.06, ρ<0.14), or to awareness of issues related to pig castration or boar taint (r = 0.03, ρ<0.44), both of which were low among participants. Participants that considered gene modification of pigs acceptable justified their position using arguments that it improved animal welfare. In contrast, those that were not in favour were generally opposed to genetic modification. Unforeseen downstream consequences of using genetic modification in this manner was a major concern raised by over 80% of participants. Our findings suggest that perceived animal welfare may encourage public support of gene editing of food animals. However, potential risks of the technology need to be addressed and conveyed to the public, as many participants requested clarification of such risks as a condition for support.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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Grant support

This research was supported by Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (311509/2015-0 to MJH) and the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa e Inovação do Estado de Santa Catarina. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.