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Posts Tagged: genetically modified organisms

Scientists using genetic editing to delete dairy cow horns

Graduate student Lindsay Upperman (left) and UCCE specialist Alison Van Eenennaam with gene-edited hornless dairy calves. (Photo: Karin Higgins)
Two calves whose genes have been edited so they won't grow horns are being raised and will later be bred at UC Davis, reported Edward Ortiz in the Sacramento Bee.

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.

Posted on Monday, December 21, 2015 at 2:20 PM

FDA approves fast-growing GMO fish

Size comparison of an AquAdvantage Salmon (background) vs. a non-transgenic Atlantic salmon sibling (foreground) of the same age.
The Food and Drug Administration approved fish that are genetically modified to grow faster, reported Dan Charles on the National Public Radio program All Things Considered.

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.

Posted on Friday, November 20, 2015 at 11:49 AM
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