The latest event in this programme was a webinar which started out to explore the broader issues of “sustainability” – whatever that means nowadays, which all the panelists, including WHAg’s Lawrence Woodward, agreed isn’t very much.
But when the conversation got down to the potential benefits of genome editing some really controversial things emerged.
Compassion in World Farming CEO Philip Lymbery was concerned that adoption of genome editing could entrench industrial farming systems but he nevertheless, supported it’s use in some circumstances. He asked:
“What if, chickens were successfully gene edited so the only eggs with female embryos are viable…If successful, this technology could be a revolution, ending at a stroke, the killing of birth of 5 billion sentient creatures a year.”
In an earlier BGM meeting, support had been expressed for the use of genome editing to deal with dehorning cattle.
Lymbery also voiced support for cell-based meat analogues. While not all of these involve genome editing some of them do.
Organic farmer Guy Singh-Watson also offered some support for gene editing, noting: “I’m not adamantly against the technology” and that “If you could give us a blight resistant potato, I would find it very hard to argue against.” He, nevertheless expressed real concerns around the system, which seems to go hand in hand with GM technology.
As the “Bigger Conversation” programme has revealed these perspectives are becoming more widely held.