What’s Going On Here?

Gene-editing in livestock and crops is to be reconsidered in England as the UK government launches a consultation on its deregulation. There are strong restrictions on gene-editing in the European Union, and Boris Johnson has wasted no time in pursuing this move following the nation’s departure from the union just two weeks ago.


What Does This Mean?

Gene-editing (GE) differs from conventional genetic modification in that it involves changing existing genes rather than introducing DNA from other organisms. So, would GE enable us to give pigs wings? Probably not (sorry!). Think of pigs gaining the power to better fight off diseases rather than the power of flight.

The consultation involves seeking opinions from the public over a period of six weeks. Should it pass consultation, this would be the first step in removing safeguards in GE in English farms which ministers claim would help tackle the food challenges of today.


Why Should We Care?

Gene-editing is a hotly debated issue – let’s break it down into some of the key arguments:

For

👍 The UK Environment Secretary, George Eustice, claims that GE could be used to develop crops and livestock that are more disease-resistant, more tolerant to extreme weather, more productive and require fewer pesticides.

👍 Land spared by creating plants that require less space could be used for biodiversity-friendly rewilding initiatives.

👍 Ultimately, it is hoped that GE would result in reduced costs to farmers and lessen agricultural impacts on the environment.

Against

👎 Livestock have already been bred to the point of such fast growth and high productivity that they often suffer – GE is only likely to make this worse.

👎 Farm animals only require gene modifications to fight off disease as many are kept in awful conditions – would GE excuse even poorer conditions?

👎 There is a lack of independent research to support Mr Eustice’s claims. Rushing to deregulate GE may lead to detrimental, unanticipated effects down the line.

👎 GE would further accelerate the narrowing of the gene pool.

👎 In times where scientists are increasingly hailing a predominantly plant-based diet for both human and planet health, is promoting research to increase meat production an effective use of funds?


Be Curious!

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