The ethics of genome editing in livestock


  • Dr Katrien Devolder

    University of Oxford

Project summary

Genome editing in livestock (GEL) has the potential to mitigate urgent global problems of infectious disease, antimicrobial resistance, global warming and animal suffering while also increasing agricultural productivity. Despite its transformative potential, there has been minimal ethical debate about GEL.

This project will provide in-depth philosophical analysis of GEL, asking how far ethical concerns raised in relation to conventional genetic engineering carry over to GEL. I will ask whether the arguments in favour of GEL are best understood in terms of cost-benefit analysis, an obligation to 'arm ourselves for the future' or an obligation to correct for past unethical agricultural practices. I will also ask how our duty to animals should be understood, looking at the relative importance of welfare, respect and avoidance of commodification, and whether using GEL to improve human and animal welfare entails complicity in unethical practices. If this is so, I will ask how this complicity could be reduced or offset.

I will investigate how my findings can inform how GEL and related areas of public policy should be regulated.