Viewpoint: Experts need to engage, educate the public on benefits of animal gene editing

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Greenpeace activist during a 2008 protest in front of the European Union headquarters. Image: REUTERS/Thierry Roge

Gene editing shows considerable potential for improving animal health and welfare and food safety while reducing dependence on antimicrobials and other treatments for livestock diseases. The industry must, however, engage and educate consumers to avoid misconceptions and backlash against a relatively new and difficult-to-understand technology.

While research remains in its early stages, scientists already have announced significant breakthroughs in applying gene editing to livestock breeding. Recently, researchers at the University of Missouri, in collaboration with Kansas State University and genetics company Genus plc, announced they used gene-editing technology to produce a litter of pigs with genetic resistance to Transmissible Gastroenteritis Virus (TGEV). The virus commonly infects the intestines of young pigs, causing almost 100 percent mortality.

Related article:  Podcast: Land use for animal agriculture has declined 140 million hectares since 2000. Can we keep this 'livestock revolution' alive?

Gene editing is another tool, potentially an extremely powerful tool, for accelerating propagation of desirable traits in crops and food animals.

The agricultural community needs, though, to get ahead of the issue and preempt any backlash from anti-technology activists or consumers. They’ll need reassurance that scientists and regulatory agencies have verified the safety of gene editing in food production, along with documentation of the benefits.

Read full, original article: Editing for Health and Fitness

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