There are no genetically engineered animals sold for human consumption right now. The only candidate that’s anywhere close, AquaBounty’s fast-growing GM salmon, seems to have stalled in its approval process, in spite of positive scientific reviews finding AquaBounty fish safe to eat and safe for the environment. As you might guess, the lack of genetically modified meat on the market isn’t because of a lack of technology. It’s because of politics—GM foods are deeply unpopular, and GM food animals especially so.
Still, I was surprised at how far along the development of GM meat is after I read this new feature from the biologists’ magazine The Scientist. There are many labs around the world working on making animals that are engineered to grow faster, resist disease, or provide people with extra nutrients. Research projects underway include goats whose milk is designed to prevent deadly diarrhea in children and chickens in which bird flu viruses don’t reproduce. In spite of public opposition and a lack of funding, GM meat research has continued to advance.
One major trend: Scientists have developed incredibly precise techniques for genetic engineering. For example, they’re now able to change just one base pair in an animal’s DNA code—one pair of letters in an animal that has billions of such pairs. Needle, haystack, etc., etc.
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