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But Not Harm

A new report from bioethicists in the UK says that though gene editing may improve food production, it should not be used in a way that harms animal welfare, New Scientist reports.

The UK government recently announced that it was considering relaxing its policy toward gene-edited crops and livestock.

New Scientist notes that gene editing of livestock could help the industry meet its human health, climate change, and animal welfare goals. But the new report from the Nuffield Council for Bioethics warns that loosening regulations could harm livestock.

Edinburgh University's Elizabeth Cripps, a member of the report working group, tells BBC News that one particular worry was that gene editing would be used to develop animals that could better withstand poor and crowded living conditions and then perpetuate those conditions.

"There is a need to ensure animal welfare is at the heart of plans to introduce genome editing into farmed animal breeding," Danielle Hamm, the director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, tells the Guardian.

The report offers a number of recommendations to improve the food and farming industries, including a "traffic light" system to describe the effect of breeding programs on animal welfare. A "green light" would mean the animals can live a good life, while a "red light" would mean the animals do not have a good quality of life, the Guardian adds.