The CRISPRsalmon project

Fish farming is the most important Norwegian bioeconomy industry, but it is also controversial for ethical and environmental reasons. The basis for this food production is the salmon, an iconic animal in Norwegian culture. One promising approach to solving some of aquaculture’s production challenges, and to ensure higher value creation in aquaculture is using genome-editing techniques such as the CRISPR system. This emerging technology enables rapid and precise changes to the genetic basis of relevant salmon traits.

However, unless it is introduced in a socially and morally acceptable way, promised improvements and solutions cannot be utilized. As expansion of the production demands that it be sustainable, the introduction of the technology has to be more sustainable than other alternatives as well. This project aims to determine the acceptability of genome edited salmon through an empirical ethics approach combining descriptive and normative studies.

The project will identify, by literature review and a foresight exercise with invited experts, the present and future possibilities in genome editing salmon, as well as relevant ethical issues in this and conventional breeding approaches. We will study public views on the moral value of salmon and of human-salmon interactions as it is expressed in public documents, media and research. A focus group and interview study of public and stakeholder views on the acceptability of genome editing salmon will make it possible to determine conditions for social acceptability of using the technology in salmon farming.

Finally, we will perform an analysis of the moral acceptability based on the empirical studies and academic texts within animal and virtue ethics. The study will provide important input for the aquaculture sector, for research on genome editing in animal husbandry, and for regulatory purposes. In addition, it will be relevant for academic debates on empirical ethics and animal ethics.

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