Questions are split into four sections:
- Current research
- The socioeconomic context
- Law, regulation and policy
We are interested in finding out more about what is happening currently in research contexts. We would like to know what genome editing technologies in farmed animals are currently being developed and how this field is likely to progress in the future. We are also interested in hearing about what technical advantages genome editing, as compared with alternative agricultural technologies, might have in the field. These include traditional breeding but also other methods of molecular DNA alteration (e.g. transgenic modification). We would also like to hear about research projects that are currently planned or in progress, what their objectives are, and what factors are driving or limiting these projects.
- What current or planned projects of research into the use of genome editing in farmed animals do you think we ought to take into account in our inquiry?
- What kinds of innovation does genome editing make possible (or practical) that selective breeding or transgenic modification techniques do not?
- Are there biological reasons why particular (kinds of) applications in farmed animals are more or less likely to be developed and used than others?
- Are there any technical constraints or bottlenecks holding up genome editing research in this field?
- What are the expected timescales within which we might expect to see particular genome editing applications being used on farms?
The socioeconomic context
We are interested in finding out more about the context in which genome editing technologies in farmed animals are being developed, the societal challenges genome technologies might be used to address, and the different factors that might shape the trajectory of research and innovation in this area. The next few questions relate to the socioeconomic context of research, innovation and diffusion of emerging biotechnologies like genome editing.
- What are the societal, production, environmental and policy challenges to which genome editing applications in farmed animals might offer a response?
- How might genome editing technologies help to address these challenges, and what practical benefits and drawbacks would genome editing applications have over existing or envisaged alternative approaches?
- What groups or organisations are likely to benefit most from the use of genome editing in farmed animals and what groups or organisations might be disadvantaged?
- What do you think are the broader social, economic and political drivers that will facilitate, impede or otherwise shape the development and use of genome editing applications in farmed animals, and what effect do you think these will have?
- How might differing regional social, economic and political drivers influence the likely development and adoption of genome editing applications in the UK, the EU and the rest of the world?
- What effect do you think public attitudes will have on innovation in this field (in the UK, the EU and internationally) and how should researchers and policy makers take account of these?
The next few questions invite your views on the ethical considerations relating to the use of genome editing applications in farmed animals, which are central to our inquiry. We would like to hear views on the significance of directly intervening, in different ways, in animal genomes, the potential impacts of genome editing technologies on animal welfare, the environment and human health, and the conditions under which genome editing might be permissible. In considering the ethics of genome editing interventions we recognise that current farming practices are not ethically neutral and engage often strong moral responses. While acknowledging this, we want, however, so far as possible to maintain a focus on the distinctive significance of genome editing in order to consider what impact it might have on the given state of affairs. We want to maintain this focus while acknowledging that farming practices both respond to and influence a much broader range of behaviours, preferences and conditions, which may themselves involve moral choices but are beyond the scope of this inquiry to affect.
- Are there any categorical ethical objections to genome editing farmed animals and if so on what grounds are they based?
- What, if any, are the ethical differences between using genome editing and deliberately altering an animal’s physiology in other ways, for example, by using hormones, surgical procedures or drugs?
- What, if any, are the ethical differences between using genome editing and using alternative methods such as traditional selective breeding methods, or marker assisted selection to alter the characteristics of a breed of farmed animals?
- What, if any, are the ethical differences between using genome editing, which relies on the cell’s own repair mechanisms, and using genetic modification techniques that insert transgenes into organisms?
- Are some but not other applications of genome editing in farmed animals acceptable and, if so, on what does their acceptability depend (for example, improving animal welfare, meeting objectives of importance for animals or humans, etc.)?
Law, regulation and policy
The final set of questions seeks views about appropriate regulation and policy for genome editing applications in farmed animals. We recognise that much policy and regulation in this area is connected with international trade conditions and that, for the UK especially, there is some uncertainty regarding the future of these arrangements. We are also interested, however, in the conditions for and implications of global knowledge and technology transfer. This is potentially an area where values and visions can influence decisions that will contribute to bringing about more desirable states of affairs or to averting less desirable ones.
- Are there reasons to think that genome editing approaches are inherently more likely than alternative approaches to result in adverse outcomes, or to result in outcomes that are potentially more harmful; what are the major risks or uncertainties that regulation should seek to manage?
- What are the roles of policy and markets in shaping livestock farming practices and what should be the key policy objectives in this area?
- Do you think that the existing EU regulatory framework for the production and sale of GMOs is appropriate for genome editing applications in farmed animals and, if not, what alternatives might be considered?
- How might national or regional differences in policy or regulation influence the development and diffusion of genome editing applications in farmed animals internationally?
This inquiry is gathering evidence in a number of ways, including by literature research, a number of fact-finding meetings with experts and further engagement with interested groups and organisations, and members of the public.
- Is there any important question that you think we should have asked or an area that we ought to have covered, or any other information that you would like to bring to our attention in order to help us with this inquiry?