By Clet Wandui Masiga
Today the November the 23rd 2015, I attended and presented at the second biennial national agricultural biosciences conference (NABIO2015), at the school of food science, nutrition & biosystems engineering conference centre, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda. My presentation title was “Animal breeding using genetic engineering proves enormous potential in Agricultural production and public health”. Gauging from the reactions and questions from the audience, it was evident many people did not know that Genetic engineering of animals was taking place. The participants demanded to know when Uganda will bring such animal breeds. Below is the abstract of my presentation. It has also been published in the book of abstracts.
Animal breeding using genetic engineering proves enormous potential in Agricultural production and public health
1Tropical institute of development innovations (TRIDI), P O Box 493, Entebbe Uganda
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Animal breeding using genetic engineering (GE) tool is the development of new breeds of animals having a specific trait to an embryo by introducing, eliminating or rearranging specific genes using the methods of modern molecular biology, particularly those techniques referred to as recombinant DNA (rDNA) techniques. The tool has been used since its discovery in 1970s from model research species to farm enterprises for the benefit of human kind. In 1980 GE mice was developed and in 1985, GE livestock and fish were first developed and many others have followed. These GE animals are vital for meeting the world’s future demands for increasing food, making animal production competitive and also in addressing public health concerns. The objective of this study was to document the progress made in breeding livestock using genetic engineering, provide information on how it’s done, the importance of such animals, limitation for their adoption and provide perspectives on its future. A transgenic animal results from the process that involves development of the gene construct and inserting that construct into the embryo. Other GE animals are produced using other approaches like genome editing and cisgenics. These GE animals are currently used in research as disease models, biomedical field in pharmaceuticals and xenotransplantation, in industrial processes and in agricultural production. There are currently few GE animals or products from them that have been commercially released or approved for solving human demands. Key among them include GloFish (fish), ATryn (goats), transchromosomical cattle, xenotrasplation pigs, OX513A (GE mosquito, Aedes aegypti). In agriculture for food there is none that is on the market to date but so far the GE agricultural animals developed include cows, sheep, chickens, pigs, and fish. Specific examples include Mastitis resistant cows, pigs expressing salivary phytase, Omega-3 pigs, Mad cow resistant cows, GE chickens that don’t transmit bird flu, and fast growing salmon. Looking into the future, GE animals hold potential to revolutionize public health and agriculture. However GE animals are being resisted by environmentalists and organic farmer advocates based on precautionary principle and for unknown safety risks to humans, biodiversity and the environment. These environmentalists and organic farmer and their consumers have influenced enactment of strict regulatory regimes that makes it difficult to commercialize GE animals. GE animals will not alone solve the world’s future animal demands for food and health issues but the resistance to use this technology is immoral and unethical. Resistance is based mainly on consumer preferences of rich populations and not those of the farmers and in areas where the technologies are really needed. In conclusion GE is a new breeding/production technology which may need a revision of current regulatory definitions to investigate risk based on the characteristics of its products rather than the breeding technology.