The Government is introducing legislation to facilitate research and development of genome editing technologies in agriculture.

The Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill will amend regulatory requirements for the development and marketing of precision bred plants and animals in the UK. The Bill will be introduced to Parliament today.

The Bill is announced as our new public dialogue with The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and UKRI's Sciencewise Programme gets underway, exploring public perspectives on genome editing in farmed animals.

Commenting on today's announcement, Director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, Danielle Hamm, said:

The Government is creating legislation for plants first, with the intention to extend it to animals at a later date. This prospect raises additional ethical issues that require careful consideration.

The use of genome editing in farmed animal breeding offers many potential benefits such as disease resistance, but how beneficial it will actually prove, and for whom, depends on how the technologies are used and for what purposes.

There is some potential for genome editing technologies to exacerbate low-welfare systems of farming, in the absence of effective regulation. We therefore welcome the Government’s commitment to safeguarding animal welfare and to securing a robust regulatory system before any changes affecting animals are put in place.

It is essential that public voices are heard as part of this policy process, and we are pleased to be taking forward this debate working with UKRI-BBSRC and Sciencewise on a public dialogue to explore perspectives on the future of our food and farming system."