We conducted seven focus groups with Extension agents from three northeast states in Spring 2000 to learn what agents knew about genetic engineering (GE) applications in agriculture, their view of Extension's role in public discussion and education, and the training needed to assume such a role. While participating agents together knew a fair amount about their target audiences' perceptions of GE, they felt unprepared to deal with the challenges of public issues education in light of the current public debate, the publics' low science literacy, and their own science background. Their expressed training needs reflected these challenges.

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