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EDITED FOR YOUR PLEASURE: Gene-editing plan ‘dark day’ for animal welfare and environment

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Gene-editing further accelerates the devastating narrowing of the gene pool. Animals will be bred to live even shorter lives, with all the suffering and horrific attendant welfare consequences.

JANE DALTON: Gene-editing will be bad for animal welfare and bad for efforts to curb greenhouse gases, organic farmers and environmental experts claim. Allowing the genes in crops and farm animals to be altered would lead to greater farm animal suffering and would not address food waste, they argue.

UK Ministers have announced they will consider the use of the cutting-edge biotechnology in England for the first time, saying crops and livestock could be made to be more productive, so reducing costs to farmers and effects on the environment.

Launching a consultation on the move, George Eustice, the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra), said gene-editing (GE) would speed up the slow process of selective breeding to enhance or remove particular traits.

But Peter Stevenson, chief policy adviser at the group Compassion in World Farming, said it was a “dark day for animal welfare” and that he was very disturbed by Defra’s proposal – which demonstrated “disjointed government thinking”.

Gene-editing would both drive faster growth rates of animals, “causing real suffering” and would entrench factory farming, with its conditions that allow diseases to spread, he told The Independent.

“Traditional selective breeding has already pushed animals to fast growth and high yields, often with immense detrimental impacts on welfare. Meat chickens have been bred to grow so quickly that many suffer from painful leg disorders, while others succumb to heart disease… “Much disease in farm animals stems from stressful, overcrowded conditions that undermine their immune systems”, he said…

And Steven Jacobs, of the Organic Farmers and Growers company (OF&G), said the technique failed to address food waste, which is one of the biggest emitters of damaging greenhouse gases, and nor does it tackle obesity by encouraging healthier diets…

Patrick Holden, of the Sustainable Food Trust, said GE would “further accelerate the devastating narrowing of the gene pool which has been a feature of postwar farming”. He added: “On the animal front, we can expect livestock to be bred to live even shorter lives, with all the horrific attendant animal-welfare consequences, erroneously justified on the grounds of reduced greenhouse gas emissions and leaner meat, because that is the fashion.” SOURCE…

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