A company wants to alter farm animals by adding and subtracting genetic traits in a lab. It sounds like science fiction, but Recombinetics sees opportunity for its technology in the livestock industry.
But first, it needs to convince regulators that gene-edited animals are no different than conventionally bred ones. To make the technology appealing and to ease any fears that it may be creating Franken-animals, Recombinetics isn't starting with productivity. Instead, it's introducing gene-edited traits as a way to ease animal suffering.
"It's a better story to tell," said Tammy Lee, CEO of the St. Paul, Minnesota-based company.
For instance, animal welfare advocates have long criticized the way farmers use caustic paste or hot irons to dehorn dairy cows so the animals don't harm each other. Recombinetics snips out the gene for growing horns so the procedure is unnecessary.
Last year, a bull gene-edited by Recombinetics to have the dominant hornless trait sired several offspring. All were born hornless as expected, and are being raised at the University of California, Davis. Once the female offspring starts lactating, its milk will be tested for any abnormalities.