As genetic modification for food production has expanded, U.S. public discourse about the acceptance and regulation of use of these products has also expanded. Dissent is currently presumed to be widespread. However, assessments of public agricultural literacy around the technology alternatives are limited, especially in the context of food production versus medical genetic testing, about potential environmental risk and other reasons for dissent. Assessments also tend to focus on consumer knowledge in outdated deficit-model frameworks. In preparation for an assessment of U.S. adult public understanding of traditional breeding and genetic engineering technology, we reviewed existing agricultural literacy and science literacy literature to determine current understanding and locate existing instruments on which to build such an assessment. Of 323 peer-reviewed articles, we found only four that empirically examined U.S. adult public audiences in the context of literacy related to genetic modification for food. Results from agricultural economics and four gray literature pieces provided additional context and direction for our own survey development. We suggest ways to build a more representative and meaningful survey relying on more than knowledge deficits to characterize agricultural literacy and plant genetic literacy. This will lay the foundation for understanding why dissent over such agricultural topics exists.

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