Gene Editing: Animal Welfare

Thank you for contacting me about gene editing and animal welfare.

The Government is working to encourage agricultural and scientific innovation in the UK. The Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill will enable the development and marketing of precision bred plants and animals, which will drive economic growth and position the UK as the leading country in which to invest in agri-food research and innovation.

Ministers recognise that there is a need to safeguard animal welfare and that is why the Government is taking a step-by-step approach with creating enabling legislation for precision bred plants first and then animals. I am assured that no changes will be made to the regulation of animals under the genetically modified organism (GMO) regime until the regulatory system outlined in the Bill is developed to safeguard animal welfare.

Further, I am aware that before marketing precision bred animals, developers will need to provide assurances to confirm that the welfare of the animal (and its offspring) will not be adversely affected by any trait resulting from precision breeding. This will be in the form of an animal welfare declaration, with accompanying evidence. The Environment Secretary will need to be satisfied with the declaration before issuing a precision bred (PB) animal marketing authorisation, after which point a PB animal can be marketed. This process will also involve an independent scientific assessment of the declaration. 

Finally, all animals are protected by comprehensive and robust animal health and welfare legislation. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes it an offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to an animal or to fail to provide for its welfare.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.