Public dialogue on genome editing and farmed animals
Genome editing – known commonly as ‘gene editing’ – is the precise, targeted, alteration of a DNA sequence in a living cell. It enables changes to the genome – which aim to secure certain physical traits in new generations of farmed animals – to be made much faster and with greater precision than other types of genetic technologies, or through traditional breeding methods.
In the UK, genome editing techniques are not currently used in breeding animals that are sold for food, but research in this area is well advanced, and some genome edited animals have already been approved for consumption in other parts of the world. Several research groups have successfully demonstrated the use of the techniques to make functional changes to animals’ genomes, without any apparent adverse effects.
This public dialogue has been commissioned jointly by BBSRC, Nuffield Council on Bioethics and Sciencewise. It will be overseen by an advisory group chaired by Sarah Mukherjee MBE, CEO of the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment, and former BBC Environment Correspondent. The dialogue follows the publication of a major Nuffield Council on Bioethics report on the social and ethical issues associated with genome editing and farmed animal breeding in December 2021. Given the strong public interest in food technologies, this report strongly recommended early, open, and informed dialogue with the public in anticipation of genome editing being introduced into the food and farming system.