CRISPR-Cas9 Genome Editing: Opportunities and Challenges in Animal Agriculture

Gus McFarlane

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Scientists now have the ability to specifically and efficiently manipulate the genomes of animals. The recent and rapid advancements in this field are due to the advent of three genome editing tools - ZFNs, TALENs and CRISPR/Cas9 - with the latter quickly gaining prominence. CRISPR/Cas9 allows for precise editing of animal genomes with never before seen ease, speed and cost, opening the doors for laboratories around the world to develop genetically modified (GM) animals. If used wisely, this game changing technology has the potential to improve animal welfare characteristics, reduce the environmental impact of livestock, prevent the spread of disease, control agricultural pests, and design animal food products that could help feed a growing populace and prevent nutritional deficiencies. Recently developed GM livestock include: pigs engineered with genetic resistance to African swine fever, cows producing hypo-allergenic milk, fast growing ‘AquAdvantage’ salmon, pigs capable of digesting phosphorous, and beef rich in omega-3 fatty acids. However, before food products from GM animals hit supermarket shelves they face a long road to market. The greatest hurdles facing developers are no longer scientific but lay in navigating the regulatory landscape and gaining public acceptance. Without question, the power of genome editing requires an effective regulatory framework but present systems are stagnating research and investment in this promising technology. CRISPR/Cas9 offers substantial advances in the speed, scope and scale of livestock genetic improvement. It also provides an opportunity to develop more nuanced GM governance. To realise these potential benefits requires engagement and cooperation between scientists, policymakers and the public.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2016
EventErasmus Mundus Alumni Conference - Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 8 Aug 201610 Aug 2016


ConferenceErasmus Mundus Alumni Conference


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