Increasing livestock through genetic engineering
Hey, so today I’d like to base my blog on the benefits of increasing livestock through genetic engineering with transgenic technology. Transgenic technology allows a scientist to introduce exogenous genetic information into livestock/ animal genomes; this means it is bringing together genetic material from a different organism. Doing so could potentially genetically improve livestock in the future.
Cloning involves splitting of the embryos. The first known cloned animal was Dolly the sheep and she was cloned through somatic cells. However, somatic cloning is now restricted to experimental use only. Transgenesis is a tricky and expensive process and is often inefficient.
This process involves the identification of the genes/ traits which are responsible for the influence of livestock production and its potential impact on human health. This then provides for the increase in ability for modification of the livestock. Successfully genetically modifying the production rate from livestock could as a result, enhance welfare, produce superior quality products, produce biomedical products and reduce the environmental impacts of farming. However these factors are limited due to the demands of animal agriculture including costs, efficiency, consumer acceptance and the end value of the product.
Transgenic technology allows for the direct approach with the potential to enhance the already existing characteristics. This is opposed to the traditional method, which was breeding in accordance to the phenotypes. Initially transgenic technology was used to study the gene functions in mice which we know is an ‘ideal scientific organism for the human’.
Although transgenic technology has not been ethically accepted in terms of food and health of the live stock however it has been publicly accepted for large scale productions of biopharmaceutical proteins with the intention for treatment of human diseases. It has also been accepted for organ donation, animal to human transplantation, which is more commonly known as ‘xenotransplantation’. A living example would be of our former PM Kevin Rudd, who has had a pigs valve inserted into his heart.
Although these topics are widely discussed, there are also more benefits of transgenic livestock which have been publicly criticized. With transgenic livestock, you could easily ensure food quality, disease resistance in the animals and environmental sustainability. It could be economically beneficial for farmers and processors not to mention beneficial to the consumers. This means safer food produced by healthier livestock. This could potentially evolve into having food which contains additional health benefits as well as possibly reducing the environmental footprint caused by agricultural livestock and farming.
Immunity to diseases could also be fought by monoclonal antibodies which recognize certain pathogens, which means the animal would not have to have the pathogen to actually gain immunity against it. Another example would be of a bacterial infection of the mammary glands, in cows, known as ‘mastitus’. This is due to the ‘Staphylococcus Aureas’ pathogen and is generally hard to control. However scientists have discovered a new and successful transgenic strategy. This involves the enzyme ‘Lysostaphin’, which is naturally found in ‘Staphylococcus Simulans’. It is know a known successful anti-microbial agent for the treatment of mastitis. Transgenic cows producing lysostaphan in their milk have a higher degree of protection against Staphylococcus Aureas.
In conclusion, although transgenic technology appears to be beneficial to both the animal, farmer and consumer it still has a while to go until it can be ethically accepted into the community.
Laible, G. 2009. Enhancing livestock through genetic engineering – recent advances and future prospects. Comparative immunology, Microbiology and infectious Diseases, [Online]. Issue 32 vol.2, pg 123-137. Access <http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.library.uq.edu.au/science/article/pii/S014795710700135X\>
[Accessed on 09 Oct, 2012]
Blasco.,2008. The role of genetic engineering in livestock production. Livestock Science, [Online]. Issue 2-3, Vol. 113, pg 191-201. Access: <http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.library.uq.edu.au/science/article/pii/S1871141307002466>
[Accessed on 09 Oct, 2012]