The Genetic Literacy Project fosters dialogue about the scientific, social and ethical implications of genetic technologies, human and agricultural. It respects the uncertainties inherent in science but is grounded in the belief that genomic research is an engine of innovation and job creation. It is designed to help journalists, scientists and policymakers navigate the increasingly politicized arena of biotechnology, genetic engineering, medical genomics and related sciences, such as nanotechnology. We are already sharing in the fruits of the genetic revolution. Genomics has resulted in increased crop yields and nutritional benefits while limiting environmental consequences and cutting carbon output. DNA technology has edged opened the door to an era of personalized medicine in which interventions are available before the onset of disease. But there are headwinds: scientific challenges, bureaucratic sclerosis and ideological resistance. Genetic literacy among the public and media is low; intricate science confuses and scares people. Genomic entrepreneurs with visionary scientific and business models need consistent, flexible policy guidance that makes risk-taking rewarding. Legislative constraints are appropriately grounded in shared ethics, but restrictions imposed in the name of narrowly construed beliefs can have severe consequences.

The Genetic Literacy Project, developed as a cross-disciplinary program with STATS—the Statistical Assessment Service, based at George Mason University— serves as a resource hub focused on Food and Environmental Genomics and Personal Genomics and Biomedicine. Now, more than ever, the public needs an independent voice to demystify genetics. We are committed to engaging the fierce debates about regulating risk: precautionary legislation, patent rights and privacy and discrimination concerns that have the potential either to spur or dramatically impede this science revolution.