Science

Consumers asked if they would eat ‘gene-edited' animals

Researchers hope to better understand public opinion on the use of the technology, which can make livestock resistant to some diseases.

Consumers are being asked their views on eating meat from “gene-edited” animals as researchers aim to eradicate livestock disease.

An online survey is seeking public opinions on the technology, with the responses to inform work at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute.

Scientists have already used gene editing to produce pigs that are resistant to the fatal disease known as Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome.

It involves altering the DNA code of an animal or plant at precise points to introduce specific characteristics.

The process is distinguishable from genetic modification, which generally refers to the transfer of genes from one species to another, researchers said.

The scientists are working with the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health in Edinburgh and experts in Africa to explore how gene editing could be used to benefit farmed animals in tropical climates.

Professor Bruce Whitelaw from the Roslin Institute said: “It is no longer a question of whether we can use gene editing technology to improve livestock health but rather whether we should use it.

“We need to better understand public opinion to inform how these technologies are used and also how they should be regulated.”

Professor Appolinaire Djikeng, director of the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health, said: “Livestock farming is a reliable source of food for people living in extreme poverty and creates economic opportunities for farmers in low and middle-income countries.

“With equitable partnerships and wider stakeholder engagement, gene editing could provide opportunities to produce healthier and more resilient animals for vulnerable farmers, and help address some of the challenges associated with rearing animals in tropical climates.”

The survey was announced on Friday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting in Washington DC.

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