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Genome editing and farmed animal breeding – findings of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics inquiry

The use of genome editing technologies in the breeding of farmed animals could potentially offer some new ways to help address challenges in the food and farming system, such as those around animal welfare and sustainability. For example, possible applications include those aimed at producing animals that are resistant to prevalent diseases, or better adapted to their environment. However, there is also potential for genome editing and other future breeding technologies to be used as a means to accelerate some of the morally questionable aspects of current intensive breeding practises.

The UK Government has announced plans to reform the regulation of genome edited organisms. These changes could have significant implications, in particular in relation to the welfare of farmed animals. The use of genome editing in farmed animal breeding raises distinctive ethical questions, such as whether and when altering animal’s biology is proportionate to meet human needs and expectations about our food systems such as the availability and quality of meat and animal produce.

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has published the findings of its independent inquiry on the ethical and social and issues raised by the prospect of the use of genome editing technologies in farmed animal breeding. At this briefing, members of the Nuffield Council’s working group were able to present its conclusions and related recommendations including for the UK Government, for farmed animal breeders and farmers and major food retailers.


Speakers included:

Danielle Hamm, Director, Nuffield Council on Bioethics

Prof John Dupre, Chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Group on genome editing and farmed animal breeding; Professor of the Philosophy of Science, University of Exeter, and Director, Egenis

Prof Jasmeet Kaler, Professor of Epidemiology and Precision Livestock Informatics, School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham 

Dr Elizabeth Cripps, Senior Lecturer in Political Theory and Associate Director of CRITIQUE: Centre for Ethics and Critical Thought, University of Edinburgh

Peter Mills, Assistant Director, Nuffield Council on Bioethics


This Briefing was accompanied by an SMC Roundup of Comments.

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