Geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam: ‘I’m not going to let the fearmongers dominate the conversation’ on CRISPR gene-edited food

Screen Shot at AM
Thanks to gene editing, this 7-month-old calf, pictured with UC Davis animal scientist Alison Van Eenennaam, does not grow horns and so will not have to go through the dehorning process. (Image credit: Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Animal geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam has six calves that are rather unusual. Most people might not pick up on what’s odd, but close inspection, and knowledge of bovine genetics, reveals that none of the calves have horns despite being a mix of breeds that typically have them. Even more surprising? The calves’ hornless state wasn’t bred into them — Van Eenennaam and her colleagues edited their genes using the new CRISPR technology.

The CRISPR gene editor uses an enzyme like a pair of scissors to cut DNA strands. Researchers can then insert whatever gene they select into the break. The technology is still in its early days, but it has experts seeing a future where gene editing can treat diseases or create crops better equipped for a changing climate.

Although gene editing uses different technology from the genetic engineering that creates GMOs, she is certain that people will conflate the two. “We have to speak up,” she says of scientists. “We’re the people who know how it could be useful and how incredibly valuable the tool is. I’m not going to let the fearmongers dominate the conversation.”

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Read full, original post: This geneticist is creating gene-edited animals for our plates

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