Gene-edited cattle have a major screw up in their DNA
Published: October 2, 2019
Category: GMO 2.0, The Organic & Non-GMO Report Newsletter
It was supposed to be a “barnyard revolution” using gene editing to create hornless cattle. The modified bulls were to symbolize a new age of precision breeding where adding or cutting a few DNA letters could produce (or eliminate) specific animal traits.
But the experiment crashed when FDA researchers discovered bacterial DNA in the animals’ genome, including a gene conferring antibiotic resistance.
“It was not something expected, and we didn’t look for it,” said Tad Sontesgard, CEO of Acceligen, a subsidiary of Recombinetics, the company conducting the experiment.
Minnesota-based Recombinetics, a pioneer in gene-edited animals, is aggressively lobbying the FDA to have light or non-existent regulation on gene-edited plants and animals. In Nature Biotechnology, researchers wrote, “The effects of genome editing are largely identical to those of the natural processes that continually create variation in the genomes of food animals. From this point of view, it is hard to see why the process of genome editing to introduce defined genetic changes should be regulated.”
The “unintended” DNA bacterial sequence was introduced through plasmids, a mini-chromosome in bacteria. While promising “no off-target effects,” Recombinetics somehow missed the alteration. The danger of the antibiotic resistance gene spreading to the cow’s gut or body raised alarm signals.
Because the sequence was found close to the editing site (gene locus), the finding weakened the predictability and safety of the process itself, necessitating FDA regulation.
The inadvertent emergence of foreign DNA deals a serious hit to those advocating unregulated animal breeding.
Sources: MIT Technology Review; Independent Science News
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