KEENNESS to differentiate gene editing (GE) from genetically modified (GM) technology was apparent at a July Farm Foundation Forum in Washington DC.
GE technology brings advantages vital for US agriculture, according to forum industry expert panelists.
To be competitive and a global leader in agriculture United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) views all science-based innovation as a vital tool.
Panelists explained the difference between gene editing and GMO technology. GE uses cells from the same species to create desired traits, while GMO technology introduces genes from other species in the genome of target cells.
Dr Mitchell Abrahamsen, executive vice-president, chief commercial and scientific officer, Recombinetics, talked about ’solving problems in animal production through precision breeding for animal health and productivity’.
According to Dr Abrahamsen, public perception is critical to advance GE technology. He explained the key to wider public acceptance must be through benefits in animal health and welfare from GE.
Dr Abrahamsen said: “How do we improve animal production systems in different parts of the world where disease and viral stress increase pressure on animal health and challenge food safety concerns?”
He added GE companies preferred to ’regulate the product and not the process. Rather than look on GE as problems looking for technology; it is better to have technology looking for problems’.
This premise prompted Acceligen – animal division of parent company Recombinetics – to pioneer the world’s first GE polled (hornless) cattle. A naturally-occurring gene in polled cattle was used to create the polling trait in mostly horned dairy breeds.
Acceligen’s GE technology to create hornless calves has been endorsed by Humane Society of the US, Holstein Association USA, and the international cattle genetics company Semex.
After the Farm Foundation Forum, the European Court of Justice on July 25 ruled that animal and plant material created through GE would be classified as GMO and subject to strict EU regulation.
Dr Abrahamsen said: "The announcement was both disappointing and unexpected and is going to put the EU at a real competitive disadvantage. Other countries will take the lead and there will be huge trade issues coming up until we resolve this. It is likely we are going to see animal production systems moving to other areas in the world.
“This judgment will limit innovation and technology, not only for animal welfare, but also for the impact of our global food production systems on the environment.”