Genome editing and farmed animals

Current Project

Current in-depth inquiry

Cow in field flipped

In January 2019, we began an inquiry into prospective genome editing technologies 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 opened up new applications of research that could have significant societal, economic, and political implications. Genome editing applications in livestock farming and aquaculture are some of the most near-term applications of the technology yet, despite their distinctive ethical implications and the influence public views have had on earlier generations of agricultural biotechnologies, they remain very little discussed.

Research is being carried out to find new ways to meet many of the challenges facing the food and farming system, for example, by reducing the need for veterinary interventions, and increasing disease resistance and environmental adaptation in domesticated 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 2021.

Public dialogue

As part of this project, we worked with BASIS Social to develop a public dialogue to explore people's views on the ethical implications of genome editing in farmed animals. A report of the dialogue was published on 10 September 2021 - find out more.

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

Molly Gray

Molly Gray

Research Officer

Molly undertakes research to support the Council’s work. She is currently working on the genome editing in farmed animals project. Prior to joining the Council, Molly worked in both NHS clinical research and recently worked as a research coordinator in the field of breast cancer at Imperial College London. She completed a BSc in Biology and an MSc in Reproductive Science and Women's Health.