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Gene Editing Farm Animals
News Bytes 11/20/2018 23 Comments

Science or sci-fi? A research company wants to alter animals by adding and subtracting genetic traits in a lab. The results could produce cows that tolerate high heat and calves without horns. Recombinetics, Inc., sees big opportunities in the farming industry.

To make the technology appealing—and ease fears that researchers are creating Franken-animals—Recombinetics is introducing gene-edited traits as a way to ease animal suffering. “It’s a better story to tell,” admits Tammy Lee, company CEO.

For example, animal welfare advocates have long criticized how farmers use caustic paste (acid) or hot irons to dehorn dairy cows so the animals don’t harm each other. Recombinetics simply snips out the horn gene, and voila! the procedure is unnecessary.

Last year, a bull gene-edited by Recombinetics to be hornless sired several offspring. All were born hornless.

Recombinetics and others say gene-editing techniques do what traditional breeding has always done, except much faster and with the precision of “molecular scissors.” Once gene-editing is accepted, Lee predicts farmers will be more interested in traits that step-up productivity.

A study this summer found 43% of Americans supported genetically engineered animals for more nutritious meat. But before food from gene-edited animals can land on dinner tables, Recombinetics has to overcome people’s concerns about possible side effects and scientists’ “playing God.” After all, many believe, the all-wise God created each animal with the traits He knew it needed. Support for gene editing will probably depend on how the technology is used—for animal welfare, increased production, or disease resistance.

Josh Balk, a Humane Society executive, points out, “If you edit for your chicken to be the size of an elephant, that’s not good.”

(Animal geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam points to a group of dairy calves that won’t have to be de-horned thanks to gene editing. AP Photo)

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Most recent comments

First comment

If that can happen to cows, one day could it happen to us?


What if they could give us superpowers, eh?


Very interesting. I think that as long as we use them for good purposes, these are ok. On the other hand, God created them that way, so why should we be changing them?

goodness that's freaky

goodness that's freaky


This is super weird. I agree, Anna C. I think we should leave God's creation how he made it.

I dont think I like this...

I kinda agree that this could help BUT only for things like disease resistance, and things that will make their lives easier. The real question is did any cows suffer through this process? I mean think about it how did they figure these things out? :|

why would you try to change

why would you try to change "nature" of sorts.....

They better not go this to humans!!!!

Humans are always trying to change God's creation.and wants up with cow that have horns that won't make there milk sour.


Sounds great, but it will very interesting to see how this play out when we begin to modify humans.


we should leave Gods creation the way it is supposed to be

@Anna C. @Keziah G. @Nadia A. @Leah P.

This isn't the first time we have changed God's creation. It's just a different way of doing it. Throughout history we have bred plants and animals to change to how we like them. Think about dogs, there are so many breeds that never would have happened in nature. We have breed fruits and vegetables for thousands of years so they are more suitable as foods. For example, bananas used to be much smaller and filled with seeds. corn today is about 1000 times larger than what it used to be. Watermelons, eggplants, and many others have also been changed, and I don't think anybody has a problem with this type of genetic modification! The point is, if you really don't want people to change God's creation, I hope you are happy with peaches the size of cherries.

It could be a good thing.

It could be helpful you know. Think about it, cows could be born without horns so that farmers wouldn't have to de-horn them. De-horning is a time-consuming process (I've seen it done). If they can modify the genetics of a cow to not have horns, then farmers wouldn't have to spend time de-horning them. I agree that God made animals the way that they're supposed to be, but by changing the genes of a cow, humans are only modifying genetics to make their lives easier, and quite possibly to ake the cow's life easier. I really hope that no animals were harmed in the process. This could save a lot of time for farmers.


Strange. That's all I can think of to say.

Isaac's sister, Grace

I don't know that I'm in favor of this, or not. It's great to have the animals de-horned, but what next? If we support genetic modification now, who knows what they will do with it in the future. A lot of people don't realize that some of these problems can be solved without genetic modification; like sicknesses and stuff can be eliminated simply by breeding the disease resistant cows, and eating the others.
Also, it probably wouldn't be good if they genetically modified animals so that they would be more nutritious. The truth is, most meat from the store isn't very nutritious because they didn't treat the animals well. Instead of feeding the animals what they were made to eat: grass, plants, and grain, they feed them whatever will fatten them the fastest. I think that if we got back to grass farming, back to the way God intended it, a lot of problems could be avoided.

Different opinions are fine :)

But that doesn't solve the problem of having to de-horn calves. Sure, it may seem kind of weird modifying animals, but we aren't doing it to harm them or to "play God". All scientists are doing is removing a part of the DNA so that calves are born without horns. Actually, this saves the animals the pain of having to go through de-horning. The calves' horns are either burned off or clipped off with a "large pruning sheers" of sorts.
Being around the farm, I know that de-horning is a tedious process, and farmers have to do it over and over again. (depending on how many calves) I believe that this could be helpful, but I understand that some people have different opinions. It's just that people have different views of farm life.


I don't think this is a good idea. Selectively breeding is one thing, changing the DNA--the very thing that makes a cow a cow and not a pig--is something totally different. Messing with stuff like this can cause unforeseen consequences. Also, what's to make it stop with animals? Next they might be altering a humans genes so that they can get rid of some "unwanted" characteristic. I think it all comes down to what we believe about God. Did He make us and animals how He wanted to, our do we have to "fix" mistakes?
Also, I think a lot of times people use "easing animal suffering" to push their agenda. Yeah, it does hurt a cow to get it's horns chopped off, but hurt is a part of life. Chopping a cows horns off is not going to kill it.
What we really need to watch out for though is changing genes so that we can abuse animals. Look up how scientists want to (or maybe already did) take the stress genes out of pigs so they can treat them badly without the pigs freaking out. Now that is just wrong.

Never to harm animals! EVER!

Of course, harming animals is wrong, but if scientists only use genetic engineering for little things, like making a cow be born without horns, then I think it's fine. I can see how some people may be unsure of this idea, I was and still am skeptical of how people are using it. What my opinion really boils down to is this: I believe genetic engineering is fine if farmers use it in a way that isn't harming the animals or people. I would never (never ever) use genetic engineering to harm the animals. If I were to ever use genetic engineering it would only be for the animals well being, not to harm them, and ABSOLUTELY never ever ever ever ever ever on humans! Gross! I believe that gene editing should only be used for the better of the animal. (Please don't judge me on my opinion) :)

A.R. @ Alaina F.

I think that we are on a downhill slope. The less we genetically modify stuff the better. We don't want people to start getting used to genetic engineering or they'll slowly allow more and more until they start doing really bad stuff. It's like that famous analogy about boiling a frog alive (gross, I know, but it has a good point): If you just drop a frog in hot water, it will jump out immediately, but if you put it it cold water and slowly raise the temperature, it won't realize it's being boiled until it's too late. I think we are going to realize what a terrible idea genetic modification is...but probably to late to keep animals (and people) from being harmed.

Gene editing is OK for small things.

Yes, I do understand your point completely! I only wish that farmers would still be able to use gene editing without harming the animal or changing their DNA too much. I think that dehorning is a great example: if you change the genetics of a cow to not have horns, I think that is totally fine because you're just going to dehorn them in the long-run anyway. I think that genetic engineering is fine if you only use it in ways that are not harmful and that don't change the DNA of the animal too drastically. Sometimes the world uses technology to the extream, like modifying animals to abuse them... now that's just wrong! But, using genetic engineering to make cattle to be born without horns is fine, in my opinion, again... please don't judge me! We all have different opinions and that's just fine!!! Thanks for hearing my view! :)

A.R. @ Alaina F.

I get your point, but I'd still rather never have people genetically modifying anything. I'm not judging you, we're all entitled to our own opinion and we only have slightly different opinions on this subject. : )


Yeah. If only life was how ya wanted it, am I right!


Yeah sometimes, but I'm glad God's in control because often I'm wrong.



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