This may seem impossible, but an American company is seeking to change farm animals by cutting or adding to their genes. By using a process called gene-editing, the company, Recombinetics, says it may be able to remove problem-causing genetic traits from some animals. Recombinetics says it can produce cows born without horns — those sharp objects on top of their heads. By using the editing process, the company says it can also breed cows that survive in hot weather. With gene-cutting, it says, pigs could live and never fully grow up. Why would that be a good idea? When male pigs reach puberty, their meat can have an unpleasant smell.
The company must first persuade United States government officials that gene-edited animals are safe, and no different than ones bred the traditional way. To date, no gene-edited animals are sold in the country. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a kind of salmon genetically engineered to grow fast, but those fish are not yet available.
There has been debate as to whether people would want to eat food that comes from gene-edited animals. Last month, the FDA announced an action plan that described the steps it will take to support both plant and animal biotechnology, while safeguarding public health.
To make this technology more acceptable, Recombinetics is not yet changing animals’ genes to greatly increase their growth or productivity. That could make the animals seem too strange to people. Instead, the company says it is adding gene-edited traits to ease animals’ suffering.
“İt’s a better story to tell,” Tammy Lee told the Associated Press. She is chief executive officer of the company, based in St. Paul, Minnesota.
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