Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Changes to Chickens and More

Gene editing could be used to improve livestock and crops, AFP reports.

"Gene editing is one of the newest and most promising tools of biotechnology," University of California, Davis' Alison Van Eenennaam said at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, according to AFP, and it "enables animal breeders to make beneficial genetic changes, without bringing along unwanted genetic changes."

Van Eenennaam's lab has developed hornless cattle by splicing a gene from Angus cattle — which are naturally hornless — into dairy-producing Holsteins, which do have horns. Farmers typically remove the horns of Holsteins and Jerseys at a young age so they do not harm each other or workers.

AFP adds that other researchers are working on developing chickens that only lay eggs that will develop into female chickens to reduce the custom of killing roosters, pigs that are resistant to porcine reproductive and respiratory virus, or soybeans that produce less fatty oil.

It notes, though, that some caution that additional safety testing needs to be done for certain applications. For instance, there's a worry that crops that are made to be resistant to certain pesticides could spread that change to other plants and affect the ecosystem. "We don't say it's inherently bad or these crops are inherently dangerous," Consumers Union's Michael Hansen told the New York Times last month. "It's just they raise safety issues, and there should be required safety assessments."