Knowledge for better food systems

Gene-edited animals in agriculture

This joint report from A Bigger Conversation and Compassion in World Farming details a roundtable that took place in London in June 2019, where scientists, ethicists, vets, academics, faith groups and policymakers discussed the issues associated with gene-edited livestock.

Questions raised at the roundtable included whether there is a need for gene-edited animals, what the ethical and philosophical issues around this technology are, what the alternatives to gene editing are and how to assess risk and monitor outcomes.

The report demonstrates broad agreement across a wide range of stakeholders on a few points, including:

  • The food system as a whole needs to change.
  • Gene editing might be acceptable in certain circumstances, such as tackling farm animal diseases without increasing antibiotic use.
  • Gene editing could further entrench the view of animals as a mere component in intensive farms instead of as sentient beings.
  • The degree of uncertainty around gene-editing means that regulation is likely to be necessary.
  • Questions were raised around whether the speed of development of new livestock breeds that could be enabled by gene-editing is desirable or not, e.g. it might make monitoring and regulation more difficult.

Read the full report, Gene-edited animals in agriculture, here (PDF link). See also the Foodsource building block What is animal welfare?

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