Narratives in Public Deliberation: Empowering Gene Editing Debate with Storytelling

Hastings Center Report 51 (S2):85-91 (2021)
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Abstract

Gene editing in the environment must consider uncertainty about potential benefits and risks for different populations and under different conditions. There are disagreements about the weight and balance of harms and benefits. Deliberative and community‐led approaches offer the opportunity to engage and empower diverse publics to co‐create responses and solutions to controversial policy choices in a manner that is inclusive of diverse perspectives. Stories, understood as situated accounts that reflect a person's life experiences, can enable the articulation of nuanced perspectives, diversify how perspectives are communicated, encourage wider participation, open dominant perspectives to challenge, and invite participants to assess appropriate empathy and precaution in collective positions. An emphasis on storytelling in deliberations on gene editing of organisms emphasizes carefully designed recruitment and facilitation to support hearing from a range of perspectives, including those that present a different set of assumptions than those that may be held by experts or other stakeholders, among these, consideration of how to understand our relationships to nature.

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