Monday, October 22, 2012

NatureNews on GE Food Animals

The latest issue of Nature has an interesting news item on how the politics of genetically engineered food animals is impeding the progress of this science. A sample:

Inquiries by Nature reveal that fewer than 0.1% of research grants from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have gone to work on GE food animals since 1999, in part because of a poor public image. In one case, James Murray, another geneticist at the University of California, Davis, was told in 2003 that the USDA had rejected his proposal to develop a goat that produces milk rich in human lysozymes — enzymes that fight diarrhoeal disease — because the agency felt that “the general public would not accept such animals”.

....Van Eenennaam once hoped to engineer a cow that produced milk rich in omega-3 fats, but the USDA rejected her proposals, and she ended the project because of a lack of funding. The agency now funds her work on conventional breeding techniques to create dairy cows without horns, sparing farmers the danger and expense of removing them. Van Eenennaam says that she might do better by disrupting the genes that lead to horns, but there is no money for that. “I’ve got plenty of funding now, but the project is completely inefficient compared to genetic engineering,” she says.