The RSPCA has responded to the news that a consultation on gene editing was launched by Environment Secretary George Eustice yesterday, Thursday, January 7.

Also Read: Minister Eustice launches consultation on gene editing

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) chief executive Chris Sherwood said:

“The RSPCA is very concerned about government plans to weaken legislation on livestock gene editing in England.

This could lead to food from genetically altered animals being offered for sale on supermarket shelves or in restaurants, an unwanted and unacceptable development even if the food were labelled.

“Over and above the forthcoming government consultation, we would like to see a national debate taking place rather than just rush to deregulate gene editing.

“There are many questions to be considered and the public has the right to be informed and engaged in this debate and for us all to understand what this means for animal welfare.”

‘Claims are disingenuous and potentially misleading’

Sherwood continued:

“Claims that gene editing is the same as natural selection or plant grafting are disingenuous and potentially misleading.

Gene editing is an unproven technology which does not take into account animal welfare, ethical or public concerns. It involves procedures that cause pain, suffering, distress and lasting harm and is an inefficient process, using large numbers of animals to produce a single individual with the desired result.

“Despite claims that these newer gene editing techniques are much more precise than previous methods, they still cause unpredictable and unintended changes to the genome, which are only just starting to be reported.

“Before this technology is adopted more widely, comprehensive research should be undertaken so we can understand the potential impact on people and animals.

While the UK is no longer compelled to follow the EU’s robust genetically modified food laws which are designed to protect human and animal life, health and welfare, it would be a huge mistake for the Westminster government to water down that legislation.

“Rather than obtaining ever more productivity and profit from individual animals, who are sentient and have intrinsic worth, now is the time to drive forward sustainable agriculture practices that respect the welfare needs of farmed animals,” Sherwood concluded.