Gene editing animals - part of a utopian future?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The last few years have seen a resurgence of interest in genetically modified (GM) animals, based around developments in gene editing technologies. Gene editing offers the prospect of transfer of alleles from one breed to another in highly specific and discriminating ways. Additionally the approval for commercial sale of GM salmon by the US Food and Drugs Administration has encouraged developers of GM animals by demonstrating that it is possible to advance through regulatory hurdles to commercial reality. In the rapidly moving animal science world, gene editing technologies have been used to produce cows without horns and pigs resistant to a fatal pig disease, African Swine fever. Perhaps more significantly, a global commercial pig breeding company has announced it has used gene editing to produce pigs resistant to a serious respiratory and reproductive disease. This latter development provides a credible pathway for gene edited pigs to be integrated into global production. Questions remain as to whether these developments will contribute to a utopian future? And if so, whose future? The future of agriculture is already contested, with advocates for sustainable intensification of global production systems, and advocates for whole system change to better reflect social and environmental aspirations in opposition to global production systems. Can gene edited animals contribute to either or both of these visions? I suggest that gene editing is conceptually different from both genetic modification and marker-assisted selection, but has similarities with both. Its acceptability in either future food production scenario will depend on the specific applications being advocated and the social context within which gene edited livestock are being produced. The question is not whether gene editing is natural or not but rather do we want it or not? Do we want the products it offers to deliver? And does it deliver them in the relational contexts in which we want them offered?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFood Futures
Subtitle of host publicationethics, science & culture
EditorsI. Anna S. Olsson, Sofia M. Araujo, M. Fatima Vieira
Place of PublicationThe Netherlands
PublisherWageningen, The Netherlands: Wageningen Academic Publishers
ISBN (Electronic)978-90-8686-834-6
ISBN (Print)978-90-8686-288-7
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sep 2016


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