Genome editing and farmed animals

Current Project

Current in-depth inquiry

Cow in field flipped

Public dialogue on genome editing in farmed animals

To help inform our inquiry, we commissioned a public dialogue. The dialogue was run by Basis Social, working in collaboration with Bright Harbour. The aim of the dialogue was to provide an opportunity for people to explore the values and considerations that informed their response to genome editing technologies and the implications for farmed animals, the food system and society more generally.

A group of 42 participants from across the UK took place in three online workshops over the course of June and July 2021.

Read the report: Online public dialogue on genome editing in farmed animals.

Key findings

  • Participants in the dialogue had a strong interest and desire to influence the way in which the food they consume is grown and reared.
  • Applications of genome editing in farmed animals were assessed and valued in relation to whether it supported people's aspirations for the UK farming systems: to create higher welfare, sustainable, heathy, affordable food.
  • Animal welfare, sustainability, and quality of meat were considered important for the future of farming and were potential application areas for genome editing.
  • Welfare standards in current intensive farming systems were of significant concern. Consequently, the argument that genome editing in farmed animals does not wildly differ from selective breeding practices currently employed in this system, did not provide an ethical basis for its use.
  • Participants saw genome editing as a tool that should be used only if there are no other means to reach a desired outcome in farmed animals: notably to increase animal welfare and/or to maintain equitable access to meat produced under high welfare conditions.
  • Participants expressed significant concerns over commercial drivers of genome editing in farmed animals, as well as the ability of governance and regulatory systems to control the technology in a way that meets public aspirations for the UK’s future food system.

How will this dialogue be used?

The findings of the dialogue will inform the conclusions and recommendations of our wider inquiry, and be a key part of the policy work we undertake in relation to these. 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 findings will also help to define the focus of subsequent dialogue and engagement to explore opinions among a larger group of people, and help to shape responsible research and innovation for the future.

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