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Boris Johnson’s government continues forward with legislation that would allow gene editing of animals and crops. The government wants to advance this legislation to improve agriculture productivity in the country, but Animal rights groups warn the “legislation has potential for catastrophic welfare implications.”

Source: UNESCO/Youtube

The bill, The Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding), aims to promote “efficient” farming and food production. Gene editing is extremely controversial, with some arguing that it poses less of a risk than genetic modification, while others say it could be a significant animal welfare issue. The government believes that lowering the regulations for gene editing will increase disease resistance in crops and, in turn, reduce the use of pesticides and boost production, The Independent reported.

Unlike genetic modification, gene editing makes slight changes to the trait of a species of plant or animal. Many argue this is much faster and more precise than selective breeding, which can take years to change crops or animals.

In a 2018 ruling, the use of technology for gene editing was restricted by the European Court of Justice which found that it should be regulated the same as genetic modification. Many people see this as another part of the plan to ditch standard EU rules after the country departed from the Union.

The World Animal Protection UK tweeted, “We have already seen the welfare of animals take a back seat to profitability through conventional breeding for larger, faster growing farmed animals that suffer from organ and ligament complications. This legislation has potential for catastrophic welfare implications.”

“Given the passage of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act, we strongly urge government to ensure animal welfare is a paramount consideration in future legislation around gene editing and genetic modification.”

The Soil Association has also opposed gene editing in the past according to The Independent. They warned that it is not a long-term solution.

Why do we continue to try to make everything bigger and better? We are seeing the true consequences of our actions. Chickens, for example, it’s now estimated that all nine billion chickens raised and slaughtered in the U.S. each year can trace their lineage back to a handful of breeds. Our want to breed fast-growing chickens has led to what people often called “Frankenchickens” because of their unnatural growth rate, which causes them to suffer a wide range of health problems including heart attacks, lameness, white striping, and green muscle disease.

For these companies, it is all about profit and making money; they don’t care about animal welfare. We need to move away from animal products for our health, the environment, and animals. There is no reason that we should be editing the genes of animals.

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