Genetically Engineered Animals and Public Health

Today is a very special day for those of us that work in the field of animal biotechnology.  Today, the FDA announced the long-awaited draft guidance describing a regulatory framework for governing genetically engineered (GE) animals. In addition, USDA is seeking comment on their coordinated role in the regulatory process.

Some of you will remember that back in June, we released at the BIO International Convention, the report Genetically Engineered Animals and Public Health – Compelling Benefits for Health Care, Nutrition, the Environment and Animal Welfare.  At that time, I also discussed the importance of this technology and its role in public health on BIOtech Now, BIO’s podcast series.  Today’s government action is truly a landmark one because it provides U.S. government draft guidance, that initiates a public comment process.   The end result of which will be the development of a final regulatory system for these products which will ensure their safety and efficacy for the American consumer.

This technology holds great promise.  Through genetic engineering, animals can produce pharmaceutical proteins and replacement tissues in their milk, eggs, and blood, which can be used in the treatment of human diseases such as cancer, heart attacks, hemophilia, rheumatoid arthritis, pandemic flu, malaria and small pox. In addition, research is being conducted to produce transplant organs in pigs that may be a source of organs for humans.

Genetically engineered animals also can improve food quality and production with improved nutrient and efficiency traits, and contribute to more environmentally-friendly livestock production as animals utilize less resources and release less emissions into the environment.  The animals themselves also benefit from  these technologies  with disease resistance traits and improved animal welfare.

So I hope you will join me, as we take this great step forward.  One tiny step for biotechnology, one great step for mankind.  And, if you have any questions about genetic engineering, drop them here as a comment and I’ll be happy to answer them.

Barbara Glenn
Managing Director for Animal Biotechnology

p.s. Stop in and check out our genetic engineering resource center.


4 Responses

  1. Ms Glenn,
    I am a member of the high school FFA chapter in my home town. This coming Monday, the 22nd, I will the competing in the Mid-South Fair with a research paper on the FDA approval of cloned meat and other products from clones. I know that cloning and geneting engineering are not the same thing, but I would like to ask you one question about the economical aspects of both industries.
    Will genetic engineering be less expensive for consumers and farmers than cloning is, or will they be about the same?
    Thank you so much for taking the time to read this question of mine. I’m kind of in a time cruch with getting my information so, if you could get back to me some time between now and ,say, 5:00 Monday morning, it would be wonderful. : )
    P. S. I would have had more time, but the article about the FDA and GE animals for food consumption just made headlines yesterday and I’m wanting to cover all my bases for the judges questions.
    Thank you again.

  2. Ms.Gleen,
    I am a pre-u student planing to futher my studies in genetics. Does geneticly engineered food bring us harm if it is consume for a long period?

  3. Anna,

    Congratulations on your research paper on livestock cloning, that allows farmers and ranchers to rapidly distribute the best genetics in the herd, for production of healthy offspring that provide healthful, consistent, and safe meat and milk. Good luck on the competition to you and your high school FFA chapter.

    Cloning and genetic engineering are different processes, but both technologies are providing healthy animals and improved products for consumers. Cloning is production of a genetic twin of the best animal in the herd. In contrast, genetic engineering is a deliberate change in the animal’s genome so that it expresses a desirable trait.

    You asked about the costs of cloning compared with another technology, genetic engineering of agricultural animals. We know the most about the costs of cloning since cloning is being slowly adopted now in the United States. We dont expect any change in the cost of meat or milk at the grocery store in the short range. The current cost for one cattle clone is about $20,000; about $4-6,000 per pig. After that, this animal will be raised just like any other animal, and used for breeding purposes. Consumers wont see any specific change in meat or milk prices just due to cloning technology. But they will benefit in the larger sense from having the most efficient production of healthy foods, which can contribute to lower cost food.

    For genetic engineering of agricultural animals, there are no approved products in the United States today. All work in this technology is being done in research and development, which is quite costly. But it’s hard to know the costs associated with final products.

    The industry and university researchers are working hard to bring forth healthy animals that produce healthy medicines, foods in an environmentally friendly manner that improves the animals health and well being. What FDA did last week was describe a very rigorous science-based regulatory process for GE animals, that will require approval from FDA before consumers can buy it. Industry supports this strong regulatory program because we know that it is the “gold-standard” process and that, in the future, consumers will be confident that products of GE animals are safe. We hope they will also be affordable and available for many to enjoy their benefits.

    Let us know if you have other questions!


  4. Hi,

    Foods from GE animals are not yet approved, and they will not be in grocery stores until several years after they are reviewed by the appropriate U.S. government agencies, deemed safe and approved by the government for the marketplace. However, that is for animals. For over ten years, people all over the world have been eating biotech-derived plant food products. In all that time, there’s not been a single health or safety issue related to the consumption of biotech-derived foods. That’s why leading food and nutrition organizations world-wide support the use of biotechnology for food production.

    Like plant biotechnology, GE animal technologies can also be used to enhance the nutritional quality of foods, making meats leaner, lower in cholesterol or higher in beneficial nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, GE technologies can provide some food safety benefits such as eliminating certain bacteria in milk production and dairy products.


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