Publication date: 31/05/2018


This report reviews public discussion about Genome Editing in non-human organisms. Its primary goal is to provide a preliminary baseline regarding the kinds of public discussion about, and interactions with, a development in biotechnology with societal significance.

Previous research and experience governing emerging technologies has shown that they need to be developed in ways that are ethical, safe and accountable, that deliver meaningful public value and that foster public trust in democratic institutions. Past experience in Britain suggests public deliberation and discourse has a vital role to play in developing effective governance arrangements and the nation has developed significant institutional expertise in developing such arrangements.

To date, attention has focused largely on the use of Genome Editing in humans. For instance, in 2015 an international summit produced a consensus statement on human Genome Editing. This was followed by a consensus study by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine into the ethics and governance of human Genome Editing, published in 2017. However, Genome Editing techniques span virtually all domains of bioscience and biotechnology that rely on altering genetic sequences. In today’s landscape, this means their envisaged uses in both scientific research, as tools, and in developing new technologies or commercially-valuable processes are widespread. It is therefore vital that non-human applications are considered.

In the UK, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics recently concluded an initial study on the ethics of Genome Editing and is undertaking follow up studies on human Genome Editing and Genome Editing in livestock. The Wellcome Trust is currently funding public engagement on Genome Editing as applied to human health and medicine through the Genome Editing Public Engagement Synergy with the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement. This review complements the above work by providing baseline information about public discussion of, and public engagement with, Genome Editing in non-human contexts.

Resource type: Adobe Acrobat (.pdf)