Genome editing for animal welfare

Genome editing for animal welfare

British researchers were able to use genome editing to create single-sex litters in mice. In the future, the same technique could also be used to specifically breed only female chicks. This would prevent the killing of male chicks. But to do this, genome editing would also have to be permitted in animal breeding.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The "BauernZeitung" reports on genome editing in animal breeding. Researchers in Great Britain have succeeded in breeding mice either exclusively male or exclusively female. With the CRISPR/Cas gene scissors, they were able to deactivate a gene so that female or male embryos stop growing at a very early stage of development. In the future, the findings could also be used in the breeding of farm animals - for example in the breeding of laying hens. It is currently common practice to kill male chicks because they do not become laying hens. With the help of genetic scissors, chick-killing could soon be a thing of the past, as the sex of the chicks can be determined in advance. But it will take several years of intensive research before the process is ready for approval.


Dual-purpose chickens: More feed, less yield

At its assembly of delegates, Bio Suisse spoke out in favor of a ban on the killing of chicks as of 2026. At the same time, the so-called in-ovo technology for sex determination was also banned. The technology can be used to determine the sex of the chick in the hatching egg. In male embryos, incubation of the egg can then be stopped. With this decision, Bio Suisse is focusing on the dual-purpose chicken. Females become laying hens, the meat of males can be used. In terms of sustainability, however, the dual-purpose chicken fares poorly. Laying hens lay fewer eggs and the roosters put on less meat than modern broilers. In addition, dual-purpose chickens need more feed than high-performance chickens. The productivity of the chickens decreases when there is a greater need for feed.

Genome editing would actually be the ideal solution for Bio Suisse. Both the chick-killing and the sustainability problems of the dual-purpose chickens could thus be prevented. Treatment with genetically modified vaccines could also prevent animal suffering. But Bio Suisse firmly rejects genetic engineering. To the detriment of sustainability.

Genome editing for livestock farming

Genome editing can also be generally beneficial in animal breeding: With better genetics and more feeding efficiency, global warming can be significantly influenced. Furthermore, animals can be given resistance to viral diseases.

Related articles

Why trust in science is so important
Media

Why trust in science is so important

It is essential that society has confidence in research. Only in this way can it realise its maximum potential and ultimately overcome social challenges such as climate change or a pandemic. But there are also critical voices: Some of the Swiss population has little or no trust in science. Four experts debated how research can gain people's trust at an «NZZ Live» panel discussion.

Crop protection products are in short supply - and soon the first vegetable varieties too
Media

Crop protection products are in short supply - and soon the first vegetable varieties too

Vegetable producers are currently struggling. The reason for this is the lack of crop protection products . It is becoming increasingly difficult to bring saleable products onto the market. Some farmers are even reaching their limits to such an extent that they have had to stop growing certain vegetable varieties.

Pests increasingly threaten fruit, berry and grape harvests
Media

Pests increasingly threaten fruit, berry and grape harvests

Fruit, berry and wine growing is increasingly threatened by pests such as the Japanese beetle, the spotted wing drosophila and the Mediterranean fruit fly. Producers are sounding the alarm – but there is a lack of pesticides that can put an end to the pests.

Organic farmer calls for genome editing for fruit growing
Media

Organic farmer calls for genome editing for fruit growing

The high number of plant protection treatments is a major challenge for organic farmers. One of them is apple grower Marco Messerli from Kirchdorf BE. He has had to treat susceptible apple varieties with organic pesticides a total of 48 times. Too much, he thinks, and is now calling for the authorisation of new breeding methods. Experts agree with him.

More contributions from Media