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Process to genetically engineer animals gets green light

September 18, 2008 |  3:55 pm


The Food and Drug Administration today opened the way for a bevy of genetically engineered salmon, cows and other animals to leap from the laboratory to the marketplace. The Times' Karen Kaplan and Thomas H. Maugh II report:

"It's about time the federal government has acknowledged that these animals are on [the] doorstep and need to be regulated to ensure their safety," said Greg Jaffe, director of the project on biotechnology at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington.

Many experts, however, fear that the proposed regulations do not go far enough to protect and reassure the public. In particular, they argue that the approval process would be highly secretive to protect the commercial interests of the companies involved and that the new rules do not place sufficient weight on the environmental impact of what many consider to be Frankenstein animals.

Animals can't be treated exactly like drugs, said Jaydee Hanson, a policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety in Washington. "Drugs don't go out and breed with each other. When a drug gets loose, you figure you can control it. When a bull gets loose, it would be harder to corral."

The genetically modified animals have a variety of potential uses:

Some, like many agricultural crops now in use, are more disease resistant. One company, for example, has produced a cow that is not susceptible to mad cow disease.

Others are more nutritious or grow faster, improving the diet and enhancing farmers' profits.

Some would serve as sources for organs for human transplants, expanding the small pool of donor organs now available.

Others, called biopharm animals, would be used to produce drugs such as insulin, which are now manufactured in yeast or bacteria.

The full story here.

--Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

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