Industries in Depth

Six-in-ten Americans support growing human organs in animals for transplants

Four-month-old pigs in a finishing barn are seen at Wessling Farms near Grand Junction, Iowa, U.S., July 5, 2018. Picture taken July 5, 2018. REUTERS/Scott Morgan

Where should we draw the line? Image: REUTERS/Scott Morgan

Mark Strauss
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Industries in Depth?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Agriculture, Food and Beverage is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Agriculture, Food and Beverage

Almost six-in-ten Americans (57%) consider it an appropriate use of technology to genetically engineer animals to grow organs or tissues that could be used for humans needing a transplant, while 41% say this would be going too far, according to a new survey by Pew Research Center.

The findings are part of a larger pattern that reveals Americans are more likely to support the bioengineering of animals if it benefits human health.

Demand for transplantable organs and tissues continues to grow in the United States. Last year saw the most organ transplants ever performed in the country. Organs were recovered from more than 10,000 donors – an increase of more than 25% over the past 10 years. Health experts attribute this increase, in part, to breakthroughs in medical technology that have made it possible to recover organs that previously would have been unsuitable for transplants. But, despite these advances, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that the gap between supply and demand remains wide.

Researchers are hoping to close that gap through the development of new medical technologies. One such approach is 3D organ printing– a process that uses “bio-ink” to print layers of cells that grow to form transplantable tissue.

Image: Pew Research Centre

Another method under development uses genetic engineering to grow human organs and tissues in animals. There was a breakthrough with this technique earlier this year, when scientists used gene editing to create hybrid embryos containing both human and sheep cells.

When the survey – conducted April 23-May 6 – asked the 41% of respondents who opposed this application of genetic engineering to explain, in their own words, the main reason behind their view, the objections included concerns about the use of animals in this way for human benefit (21% of those asked) and the potential risks for human health (16% of those asked).

The responses included:

“In manufacturing organs, the existence of these animals would be miserable … I can’t ethically say that I would agree with such a practice.”

“Factory farming already as an industry unethically treats animals. I imagine organ growing wouldn’t treat the animals any differently.”

“When you mix human and non-human genetics I believe that will cause extreme problems down the road.”

“Even human-to-human organ transplants often reject, so I can only imagine the bad side effects that an animal-to-human transplant would cause. Keep things simple and the way nature intended.”

Image: Pew Research Center
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Industries in DepthHealth and Healthcare Systems
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

How these 5 steel producers are taking action to decarbonize steel production

Mandy Chan and Daniel Boero Vargas

June 25, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Sign in
  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum