Changes in opinions about human germline gene editing as a result of the Dutch DNA-dialogue project

Diewertje Houtman, Boy Vijlbrief, Marike Polak, Jacqueline Pot, Petra Verhoef, Martina Cornel, Sam Riedijk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Public engagement for Human Germline Genome Editing (HGGE) has often been called for, for example by the WHO. However, the impact of public engagement remains largely unknown. This study reports on public engagement outcomes in the context of a public dialogue project about HGGE in the Netherlands; the DNA-dialogue. The aim was to inquire opinions and opinion change regarding HGGE. A questionnaire was distributed on a national level (n = 2381) and a dialogue level (n = 414). The results indicate that the majority of the Dutch population agrees with the use of HGGE to prevent severe genetic diseases (68.6%), unlike the use to protect against infectious diseases (39.7%), or for enhancement (8.5%). No indications of change in these acceptance rates as a result of dialogue participation were found. The results did provide a tentative indication that participation in dialogue may lead to less negative opinions about HGGE (χ2(1) = 5.14, p = 0.023, OR = 0.56, 95% CI [0.34, 0.93]). While it was not a goal of the project to make people more accepting towards HGGE, this might be the effect of exposure to opinions that are less often heard in the global debate. We conclude that dialogue may lead to different outcomes for different people, depending on their characteristics and their entrance attitude, but does not appear to systematically direct people towards a certain opinion. The self-reported, impacts of dialogue participation included no impact, strengthening of opinion, enabling of forming a first opinion, more insight into the potential implications of HGGE, and a better understanding of other people’s perspectives.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Human Genetics
Early online date2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2022

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