POSTbrief 50 Genome Edited Animals (Journal)

Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPublication peer-review


Genome editing, also known as gene editing,1 encompasses a broad range of
techniques that allows targeted changes in the DNA of animals (and plants).2
The Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill 2022 -2023, due for Second
Reading in the House of Lords on 21 November 2022, intends to change the
regulatory definition of certain genome-edited animals. This POSTbrief
complements the Commons and Lords Library briefings on the Bill.
The Bill proposes that plants and animals that are produced by some forms
of genome editing, and other genetic technologies, are regulated as
Precision-Bred Organisms (PBOs). This regulatory definition applies if the
PBO could have been developed by traditional breeding methods or may
have occurred naturally. These plants and animals are currently regulated as
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). Secondary legislation would be
required before livestock and other animals classified as PBOs can be
released into the environment.
In the Bill, the term precision breeding is presented as a scientific term, but
some commentators question whether this is appropriate.
3 Others suggest
that an imprecise definition may not provide public reassurance that these
techniques have the same risk profile as traditional breeding.
Globally, genome editing to alter traits in animals, such as disease resistance,
growth rates or reproductive efficacy, is at different stages of development.
This ranges from the initial ‘discovery’ phase to commercialisation and
marketing of genome-edited animals.
An important aspect of the debate focuses on the animal welfare implications
of the technology. Animal welfare concerns include possible unintended
effects of the genome editing process, as well as the intended development
of some traits such as faster growth.5 These concerns exist alongside
potential improvements to animal welfare from the development of beneficial
Stakeholders disagree on the extent to which the Bill should also consider
any social and ethical implications. Market authorisation of genome-edited
animals could have implications for the wider food system, society and trade.
Public perceptions of the benefits of genome-edited animals are tied to how
this technology will change the food and farming system, such as whether it
further intensifies food and farming.
Concerns have also been expressed over transparency for consumers. The
Bill does not require food labelling to state whether genome editing was
PeriodDec 2022
Type of journalSpecialist publication
Degree of RecognitionInternational