Bioengineering microbial communities: Their potential to help, hinder and disgust Academic Article uri icon


  • The bioengineering of individual microbial organisms or microbial communities has great potential in agriculture, bioremediation and industry. Understanding community level drivers can improve community level functions to enhance desired outcomes in complex environments, whereas individual microbes can be reduced to a programmable biological unit for specific output goals. While understanding the bioengineering potential of both approaches leads to a wide range of potential uses, public acceptance of such technology may be the greatest hindrance to its application. Public perceptions and expectations of "naturalness," as well as notions of disgust and dread, may delay the development of such technologies to their full benefit. We discuss these bioengineering approaches and draw on the psychological literature to suggest strategies that scientists can use to allay public concerns over the implementation of this technology.

publication date

  • 2016