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GM Animals - Another GM Crops?

Bruce, A

Genomics, Society and Policy   3 (3) 4

January 2006

Almost new biotechnologies are developed, the parallels with GM crops are often drawn. In this paper, I consider GM animals and contrast them with GM crops. I use a systems of innovation perspective to consider innovation, product markets and regulatory systems and suggest that whilst there are some parallels between GM crops and animals there are also clear differences. There are differences in the techniques used, the availability of single genes useful for transfer and the acceptability of '╦ťfailures'. Existing animal breeding techniques are competitive with GM technologies and dissemination of GM animals into a population is difficult and time consuming. The structure of the industry is different between crops and livestock with large multinational companies largely absent in the production of farm livestock for breeding. Additionally animal welfare and ethical aspects are widely recognised as important in the context of GM animals, but the likely impacts of welfare and ethics-based regulation on any GM animal production is not clear. All these differences are potentially important for the future trajectory of the technology. I also suggest that at present, the development of GM animals is being pulled in different directions by the opening up of technological possibilities and the emphasis on animal welfare and notions of animal integrity.