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Genomics and Biology. Biotechnology and genomics.
Biotechnology - Livestock and poultry


Foods derived from GM livestock and poultry are far from commercial use. Research efforts are underway at a large number of laboratories across the world to enhance the quality of live stock for human consumption. While it may take some time that the actual commercial application of these efforts really start and has a significant impact on human development, efforts are in the right direction and may lead to path breaking results sooner or later.

As a part of ongoing research several growth-enhancing novel genes have been introduced into pigs. The process has positively affected the quality of the meat, i.e. the meat is more lean and tender. This research was initiated over a decade ago, but owing to some morphological and physiological effects developed by the pigs, these have not been commercialized. It may still be a while when the commercial application of the technology starts for human consumption.

Many modifications to milk have been proposed that either add new proteins to milk or manipulate endogenous proteins. Recently, researchers from New Zealand developed GM cows that produce milk with increased levels of casein protein. Use of such protein-rich milk would increase the efficiency of cheese production. Other work aims to reduce the lactose content of milk, with the intent of making milk available to the population of milk-intolerant individuals. This is one area where research is at a fairly advanced stage and results are expected to be out very soon. In fact in some countries, GM cows milk has been given go ahead for testing, which is the first step for allowing the commercial application of the same.

Other applications of genetic modification in animal production in the early stages of R&D include improvement of disease resistance, increased birth rates in sheep, altered sex ratio in poultry, increased egg production in poultry by creating two active ovaries, and improved feed conversion in the ‘enviropig’ (environmentally friendly pigs that excrete less phosphorus). Most of this work is still theoretical and at a very early stage of research and therefore estimates of time frames for possible commercial introductions of any of these applications are not in the near future. However the very thought of efforts in these directions indicate that there are immense opportunities for commercial application of these technologies.

Research is also underway to enhance the quality of poultry such as chicken and an early detection of virus as well as developing immunity to virus in poultry. This has both human and commercial angle as virus free chicken is fit for human consumption and will address the misgivings relating to SARS virus outbreak in a large number of countries. It is also expected to enhance the poultry farming and lesser mortality in poultry leading to better returns for poultry farmers.

 

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