Posts Tagged: genetically modified organisms
Dairy cows have been bred for optimal dairy production, but the gene mix brought along horns. Angus beef were bred for optimal beef production, and don't have horns. Since the dairy industry doesn't want animals with horns because they can hurt each other or farmworkers, it is common practice to remove them shortly after birth.
Removing the horns involves an uncomfortable procedure called debudding, in which, after being treated with a local anesthetic, the cells on the animal's head that would grow into horns are killed with an electrical appliance.
"Consumers are concerned about how we care for dairy animals. They expect us to do a good job and are concerned about pain and discomfort," said UC Davis veterinarian Terry Lehenbauer in a video about the advancement (See the video below).
Using precision genetic "editing," scientists were able to delete the dairy cow gene that produced horns and replace it with the angus gene that resulted in hornlessness.
At UC Davis, the two calves' growth and development will be tracked. Eventually they will father cows with horned mothers to see if the hornless trait is passed on to the offspring. The odds of them doing so, Van Eenennaam said, are 100 percent, if "Mendelian genetics hold true." Mendelian genetics are laws of gene inheritance discovered by 19th century monk Johann Mendel.
Van Eenennaam said it's not clear whether other, unexpected effects of the gene editing will occur. However, if successful, gene editing will allow the dairy industry to bypass decades of breeding for hornless cows.
Charles spoke with a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) animal science expert about the AquaAdvantage salmon that have now been cleared for production.
"Basically, nothing in the data suggested that these fish were in any way unsafe or different to the farm-raised salmon," said Alison Van Eenennaam, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist based in the Animal Science Department at UC Davis.
The GMO fish must be raised in tanks on dry land. Producers must take precautions to prevent the genetically engineered fish from making it to the ocean or other natural waterways where they could transfer the fast-growing gene to a wild salmon population.
Fast-growing salmon were created 25 years ago by inserting a new gene into fertilized salmon eggs. The FDA said in a statement that, "after an exhaustive and rigorous scientific review" the agency decided the GMO fish is as safe as non-GMO Atlantic salmon, and equally nutritious. GMO fish is not subject to mandatory labeling, but the FDA released a "draft guidance" for voluntary labeling indicating whether food has or has not been derived from genetically engineered Atlantic salmon.
The All Things Considered story noted, however, that the product will face PR challenges. Friends of the Earth say people won't eat GMO fish even if it is available; Center for Food Safety said it will sue the FDA to block approval.
The review study also found that scientific studies have detected no differences in the nutritional makeup of the meat, milk or other food products derived from animals that ate genetically engineered feed.
The review, led by Alison Van Eenennaam, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis, examined nearly 30 years of livestock-feeding studies that represent more than 100 billion animals.
Titled “Prevalence and Impacts of Genetically Engineered Feedstuffs on Livestock Populations,” the review article is now available online in open-access form through the American Society of Animal Science. It will appear in print and open-access in the October issue of the Journal of Animal Science.
Genetically engineered crops were first introduced in 1996. Today, 19 genetically engineered plant species are approved for use in the United States, including the major crops used extensively in animal feed: alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, soybean and sugar beet.
Food-producing animals such as cows, pigs, goats, chickens and other poultry species now consume 70 to 90 percent of all genetically engineered crops, according to the new UC Davis review. In the United States, alone, 9 billion food-producing animals are produced annually, with 95 percent of them consuming feed that contains genetically engineered ingredients.
“Studies have continually shown that the milk, meat and eggs derived from animals that have consumed GE feed are indistinguishable from the products derived from animals fed a non-GE diet,” Van Eenennaam said. “Therefore, proposed labeling of animal products from livestock and poultry that have eaten GE feed would require supply-chain segregation and traceability, as the products themselves would not differ in any way that could be detected.”
Now that a second generation of genetically engineered crops that have been optimized for livestock feed is on the horizon, there is a pressing need to internationally harmonize the regulatory framework for these products, she said.
“To avoid international trade disruptions, it is critical that the regulatory approval process for genetically engineered products be established in countries importing these feeds at the same time that regulatory approvals are passed in the countries that are major exporters of animal feed,” Van Eenennaam said.
Collaborating on the study was co-author Amy E. Young in the UC Davis Department of Animal Science.
The review study was supported by funds from the W.K. Kellogg endowment and the California Agricultural Experiment Station of UC Davis.
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