Genome editing and farmed animals

Current Project

Current in-depth inquiry

Cow in field flipped

In January 2019, we began an inquiry into the potential development of genome editing applications in farmed animals. This was identified as one of the two areas that requires urgent ethical scrutiny in our 2016 report, Genome editing: an ethical review (the first was genome editing in human reproduction, which resulted in a report published July 2018).

Genome editing in animals such as pigs, sheep, cattle and chickens is an area where genome editing techniques have not just accelerated research but have opened up completely new areas of research that could have significant societal, economic and political implications.

Research is being carried out to find new ways to intensify food production sustainably in order to feed a growing world population, for example, by increasing animal meat yield or reproductive capacity, or improving disease resistance and environmental adaptation in intensively reared animals.

Genome editing in animals gives a fresh impetus for considering questions raised by previous genetic technologies for human consumption, including product safety, animal health and welfare, and the most appropriate ways to meet societal challenges such as food security.

Due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic we have postponed publication of this inquiry, we now expect to publish our findings in spring 2021.

Project team

Pete web square2015

Pete Mills

Assistant Director

Pete is part of the senior management team. He is responsible for leading Council projects and inquiries and speaking on behalf the Council on a range of ethical issues. Before joining the Council in 2011, he worked on scientific development and bioethics at the Department of Health, where he led the Human Genetics Commission, and on assisted reproduction and embryo research policy for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority


Anna Wilkinson

Research Officer

Anna undertakes research to support the Council’s work and contributes to the drafting of reports. Before joining the Council Anna worked on medical ethics at the General Medical Council and prior to that has worked in research and policy roles in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the think tank Demos.