Posts Tagged: GMOs
Dairy cows have been bred for optimal dairy production, but the gene mix brought along horns. Angus beef were bred for optimal beef production, and don't have horns. Since the dairy industry doesn't want animals with horns because they can hurt each other or farmworkers, it is common practice to remove them shortly after birth.
Removing the horns involves an uncomfortable procedure called debudding, in which, after being treated with a local anesthetic, the cells on the animal's head that would grow into horns are killed with an electrical appliance.
"Consumers are concerned about how we care for dairy animals. They expect us to do a good job and are concerned about pain and discomfort," said UC Davis veterinarian Terry Lehenbauer in a video about the advancement (See the video below).
Using precision genetic "editing," scientists were able to delete the dairy cow gene that produced horns and replace it with the angus gene that resulted in hornlessness.
At UC Davis, the two calves' growth and development will be tracked. Eventually they will father cows with horned mothers to see if the hornless trait is passed on to the offspring. The odds of them doing so, Van Eenennaam said, are 100 percent, if "Mendelian genetics hold true." Mendelian genetics are laws of gene inheritance discovered by 19th century monk Johann Mendel.
Van Eenennaam said it's not clear whether other, unexpected effects of the gene editing will occur. However, if successful, gene editing will allow the dairy industry to bypass decades of breeding for hornless cows.
Not surprisingly, a story in yesterday's Sacramento Bee about goats that have been genetically modified with human genes is generating comments on the newspaper's Web site.
The story was prompted by a UC Davis news service press release by Pat Bailey.
In short, UC Davis animal scientists James Murray and Elizabeth Maga engineered a small herd of dairy goats to produce high levels of a human antibiotic-like protein in their milk. Pigs fed milk from the transgenic goats had significantly lower levels of E. coli bacteria in their small intestines than those raised on regular goat's milk. The scientists feel the results mean the goat milk could one day be used to protect or cure people of diseases, especially in poor regions of the world.
Comments on the story ranged from outraged to indifferent to funny.
"Completely disturbing... on so many levels," said one.
"What's disturbing is the irrational fear," wrote another.
"It might be disturbing, but it sure explains a lot about my mother in law," commented a writer.
Those interested in learning the ins and outs of dairy goat production may wish to attend a workshop May 15 in Merced. UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Deborah Giraud says the market for goat milk is growing due to increasing popularity of specialty goat milk cheese and yogurt. For all the details and registration information, click here.