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Conference paper - Peer-reviewed, 2018

Could crispy crickets be CRISPR-Cas9 crickets – ethical aspects of using new breeding technologies in intensive insectproduction

Gjerris, M.; Gamborg, C.; Rocklinsberg, H.


The use of biotechnological tools in relation to insects have mainly been discussed in relation with regard to making crops resistant to certain insects or to combatting diseases, e.g. by making genetically modified mosquitoes to reduce malaria. In these cases, typically raised issues are risks to humans, insects becoming resistant to crop traits and to broader environmental consequences. However, novel biotechnological possibilities and growing interest in insects for food and feed could also raise additional ethical issues. In 2013 FAO published a report on edible insects promoting the use of insects in large-scale intensive production systems as an alleged more sustainable source of protein for food and feed than traditional livestock production. So far, a possibility that has received only little attention is the use of biotechnology to modify relevant insect species to speed up domestication to achieve higher productivity or better disease resistance. In this paper we explore some of the ethical aspects related to such a development to show what the discussions are about: E.g. the seemingly legal discussion whether insects produced using biotechnological tools such as CRISPR-Cas9 should warrant different labelling than conventionally bred insects? Would ethical concerns differ from when producing non-altered insects for food and feed? Will knowledge that the insects have been produced through biotechnology make it even more difficult to relate to them as anything other than protein units? Ethical considerations regarding animals often depend on human experiences of empathy for animals to ensure awareness of their welfare. However, with regard to insect ethics the border of both those aspects is challenged. Can insects experience welfare, and if they can, will we care; that is, can we experience any empathy with them? Moreover, issues related to human interference in a being's genome may be ethically significant. In turn, these issues could have ramifications for the social acceptability of GM insects used for food and feed.


insect production; CRISPR-Cas9; animal welfare; animal ethics; social acceptability

Published in

ISBN: 978-90-8686-321-1, eISBN: 978-90-8686-869-8
Publisher: Wageningen Academic Publishers


14th Congress of the European-Society-for-Agricultural-and-Food-Ethics - Professionals in Food Chains: Ethics, Roles and Responsibilities, JUN 13-16, 2018, Vienna, AUSTRIA