Roundtable finds broad agreement that regulation of gene editing is important for consumer confidence and protection
Until recently, the use of gene editing in agriculture has mostly focused on plant species. That has been a pretty challenging 30-year-long discussion! But it becomes even more complex when emerging uses for new genetic engineering technologies – especially in sentient creatures – are considered.
While gene editing in human beings has attracted a great deal of media, and therefore public, attention around both the science and ethical issues, gene editing of animals, especially those intended for the human food chain, has yet to benefit from the same depth of discussion.
Beyond GM's day-long roundtable, convened in June 2019 in London, and co-hosted with Compassion in World Farming, brought UK and EU animal biotechnology scientists, ethicists, veterinarians, academics, faith groups, policy makers and others together to explore in greater depth a range of issues around gene-edited animals. These included whether there is a need for such animals, what the ethical and philosophical issues around this technology are, what the alternatives to gene editing are and also how we assess risk and monitor outcomes pre- and post-marketing.
The report from the day, which aims to reflect the real breadth of the discussion, inevitably raises areas of disagreement between the diverse participants. But there were also some surprising areas of agreement. For instance, in contrast to widespread reporting, the uses for gene editing in animals are likely very limited and that regulation of this technology is important for consumer confidence and protection, now and in the future.
If you are new to this discussion this document, which comes from Beyond GM's A Bigger Conversation initiative, is a good way in to the multiple issues it raises.