We are delighted to announce the start of a new public dialogue to explore people’s views on the ethical implications of genome editing in farmed animals.

Genome editing is the precise, targeted modification of a DNA sequence in a living cell. It has a range of potential applications in farmed animal breeding, although some applications have given rise to concerns about possible impacts on animal welfare and farming practices.

The aim of this dialogue is to identify and explore the priority issues of public interest raised by the use of genome editing in farmed animals.

We have commissioned BASIS Social to design and manage the dialogue, working in collaboration with Bright Harbour, following a tender-based recruitment process.

We will be holding three online deliberative workshops with a group of 42 participants from across the UK with urban, rural, coastal representation, gender, age, ethnic, faith, socio-economic, and geographical diversity, with varied dietary preferences and differing attitudes to the use of genetic technologies.

This first of these workshops takes place today, with the second and third to follow later in June and July. The findings are expected to be reported by the end of August.

Why a public dialogue now?

We believe there is a clear opportunity now, with the emergence of genome editing, to align public policy with the public interest for this next generation of biotechnologies. In January, the UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) launched a consultation on the regulation of genetic technologies, focused on potential applications of genome editing in UK agriculture and aquaculture. In our response to a consultation and previously, we highlighted the crucial role of public dialogue and engagement as part of the policy process, as have several other organisations.

The dialogue will provide opportunities to:

  • Explore and understand participants’ responses in relation to the adoption of genome editing technologies in farmed animals.
  • Identify areas of greatest public interest and concern, and explore people’s assumptions about the key issues identified.
  • Understand the values and principles that underlie dialogue participants’ views, and map these and the concepts, arguments, and language relevant to public discussion of genome editing and farmed animals.

How will the findings of the dialogue be used?

The findings of the dialogue will inform our ongoing inquiry into genome editing in farmed animals and be a key part of the policy work we undertake following the conclusion of our inquiry. We expect the findings to stimulate further public debate and to inform research strategy and regulatory policy in a post-Brexit UK, by feeding into Defra’s broader review of the regulation of genetic technologies.

The public dialogue findings will also help to define the focus of subsequent dialogue and engagement to explore opinions among larger groups of citizens, and help to shape responsible research and innovation for the future.

To find out more:

For more information about this public dialogue, please contact Arzoo Ahmed.