September 28, 2023


UK pig organisation supports expediting approval of precision breeding techniques in farmed animals




The United Kingdom's National Pig Association has backed calls for the UK government to speed up plans to allow the commercial use of precision breeding techniques in farmed animals.


Yorkshire pig producer Rob Beckett wrote to UK Farming Minister Mark Spencer, urging him to intervene in the process.


The Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act was granted Royal Assent in March this year, paving the way for gene edited crops and livestock to be introduced on farms in England.


One of the first potential applications in livestock could be porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome resistant pigs, bred using gene edited traits developed by scientists at the University of Missouri and the Roslin Institute in the UK. In August, PIC submitted an application for approval of the technology on the United States - it expects to receive an answer within six months.


But under the terms of the Precision Breeding Act, which applies to England only, gene-edited plants are being prioritised over livestock.


Whereas, more detailed implementing rules authorising precision bred crops for commercial release in England are expected to be finalised in summer 2024, coming into force at the end of 2024. The UK government has indicated that the equivalent process for farm animals could take a further two years.


Becket told Spencer that pig producers in England should get access to the same advanced genetics as soon as possible to help alleviate suffering of animals caused by intractable diseases such as PRRS.


"PRRS is a dreadful condition, endemic in both indoor and outdoor pig production in the UK, and responsible for significant losses, as much as £30 million (US$36.4 million) per year in England alone," Becket said. "But as a fellow farmer, I know you will understand that this issue is not just about pounds and pence. It is also about avoiding animal suffering, and the distress this causes among producers. A genetic solution is now available which could eradicate this horrible disease – it seems unethical not to get it out onto farms at the earliest possible opportunity."


Beckett's call came after PIC hosted a series of roadshows around the UK to update pig producers on its efforts to introduce gene edited PRRS-resistant pigs in the US and UK markets, including efforts to gain market acceptance.

- National Hog Farmer

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