WOULD the public choose to eat gene-edited meat?

That is the question which will be put to people in a survey, on behalf of the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, to gather views on the use of gene-editing technologies in animals.

Scientific research has found that gene-editing technology can improve livestock health and could help vulnerable farmers globally to improve their animal welfare and thus tackle challenges of food insecurity.

The questionnaire, organised by agribusiness consulting company AbacusBio, is focused on people’s perceptions of gene editing in livestock, and whether they would eat meat from an animal that has had its DNA altered.

Responses to the survey will help inform research at the Roslin which has already used the technology to produce pigs that are resistant to the devastating disease Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome – which causes pig producers significant losses worldwide.

Teams at the Roslin Institute are working with experts at the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health in Edinburgh and in Africa, to explore how the technology could be used to benefit production animals in tropical climates.

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,” he urged.

The goal is to improve the health and welfare of farmed animals around the world, and to improve the security of food supplies in low and middle-income countries.

Gene editing involves altering some of the individual chemical 'letters' that make up an organism’s genetic code at precise points.

Supporters stress that the changes introduced are the same as those that could occur spontaneously in nature – but most natural changes either have no impact or are harmful to the animal.

Used purposefully, the technology can be used to introduce characteristics into plants and animals, such as resistance to a specific disease or improved adaptation to different environments.

Professor Bruce Whitelaw, of the Roslin Institute commented: “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.”

The Roslin Institute receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council: “The advances in genome editing approaches offer potential solutions to the global challenges we face in food security and animal welfare,” said BBSRC executive chair Professor Melanie Welham. “With bioscience transforming our ability to understand these challenges we are better equipped to develop new and innovative ways to address them and it is important that the public are engaged in the dialogue,” she concluded.

If you want to have your say, the survey can be found here:- https://abacusbio.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/ge_consumerwtp_v2