A powerful new tool is about to hit the agriculture scene. Gene editing technologies, such as CRISPR-Cas, are now enabling us to fast-track genetic alterations that would have taken generations to attain with selective breeding.
According to Randall Prather, distinguished professor of animal sciences at the University of Missouri, consumer acceptance is the main obstacle to the mainstream application of the technology, so communication will be key. “It’s a hard thing to sell. People don’t understand it (but) there are so many things we could do. You are truly limited by your imagination.”
The benefits that this precision breeding could offer are indeed extensive: from applications allowing more humane treatment of livestock, such as eliminating the need to dehorn dairy calves; improvements to animal health, with resistance to deadly diseases and viruses; and increased productivity alterations, including allowing for more efficient thermo-regulation in high heat.
Tad Sonstegard, chief scientific officer for Acceligen, the food application arm of Recombinetics, also believes the technology could provide many benefits for society. “If every animal is 10% more productive, you can feed 10% more people with 10% fewer inputs. If you are concerned about animal welfare and earth welfare, you should be pro gene editing.”
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