March 8, 2022
US regulators approve sale of gene-edited beef cattle
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given regulatory clearance for the sale of beef from gene-edited cattle over the coming years after they determined that the livestock do not raise any safety concerns, Associated Press reported.
The gene-edited cattle by Recombinetics are the third genetically altered animals approved for human consumption by the FDA after salmon and swine.
Recombinetics' cattle have their had genes altered with a technology called CRISPR that result in short, slick coats to let them more easily withstand hot weather. Cattle unaffected by heat stress may pack on more weight easily, making for better meat production.
Recombinetics did not say when their meat reach consumer markets, but the FDA said it could be as early as two years.
The cattle did not need to go through a yearslong approval process unlike salmon and swine. The FDA said the cattle were exempt because the genetic makeup is similar to other existing cattle and the trait can be found naturally in some breeds.
Dr Steven Solomon, director of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine said the FDA review took several months. He said a genetically altered animal marketed as having a special advantage, such as a higher than normal ability to withstand heat, would need to go through the full approval process.
He notes the FDA's decision could pave the way for other biotech companies.
Recombinetics cattle's gene-edited trait can be passed down so semen and embryos from them could be used to produce offspring with the same shorter coats.
Recombinetics said this trait will make beef production more sustainable and to improve animal welfare in warmer climates.
Greg Jaffe, who specializes in biotechnology at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the FDA should be more transparent about the review process as that would lead to better public acceptance and minimise any potential economic disruptions from global trade as other countries could consider the animals genetically modified foods that need to be labelled.
Jaydee Hanson, of the Center for Food Safety said the FDA should track the cattle for several generations to ensure there aren't any unintended issues.
Alison Van Eenennaam, an animal geneticist at University of California, Davis who has worked with Recombinetics, said if all companies were mandated to go through the FDA's lengthy approval process, it would end the possibility of commercialising gene-edited animals in the US.
She said the gene-edited cattle from Recombinetics will take about two years for beef from the offspring to reach the market.
- Associated Press