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RSPCA warns new English law could lead to gene-edited dogs

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The Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act has recently received the Royal Assent prompting the RSPCA to voice “serious concerns” regarding its implications for dogs. This new law permits the genetic creation and marketing of “precision-bred” crops and animals, and while its primary focus is on agriculture and livestock, it lacks any specific exception for canines.

Genome editing, or GE, involves manipulating an organism’s DNA, altering its genetic makeup, which can result in discomfort and harm. While GE historically faced strict regulations, the new law in England is set to ease these restrictions.

While supporters argue that the Act promotes agricultural and scientific innovation, bolstering crop resilience and food security, those advocating for canine welfare have voiced significant concerns.

David Bowles, Head of Campaigns and Public Affairs at the RSPCA commented: “We feel there’s no justification whatsoever for non-farm animals to be covered by the Bill. Ongoing demands for dogs and cats with harmful physical characteristics and exaggerated conformational features and relentless pressure on sporting animals, are already of deep concern, and there’s been no public consultation on gene editing non-farm animals”

While it’s difficult to predict which specific dog breeds might be genetically modified, breeds that could be more susceptible to gene editing for extreme features include Bulldogs, Pugs, Dachshunds and Chihuahuas.

The government has expressed its commitment to adopting a gradual approach in implementing the regulatory framework for the act. In a press release, they stated, “While there is significant potential for enhancing innovation, the government acknowledges the importance of safeguarding animal welfare within the new regulatory framework. This is why we are proceeding step by step, initially focusing on the use of precision breeding technologies with plants before extending to animals.”

In response, the RSPCA stated ‘The way this has been rushed through doesn’t inspire us with confidence. The UK Government has already acknowledged public concerns about animal welfare and gene editing, so we’re unsure why they’ve bullishly pushed ahead with this ill-judged policy.’

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