BOX 1.3 Examples of Technologies that are Experimentally Established but not Yet in Widespread Use in Animal Agriculture

Production of sexed semen

Production of transgenic animals by direct gene transfer

Production of transgenic animals through genetic engineering of sperm

Cloning of adult animals by somatic cell nuclear transfer to produce “copies”

Cloning of animals by somatic cell nuclear transfer to achieve genetic engineering

The traditional kind of biotechnology emphasized at the beginning of this section relies upon natural breeding procedures to select valuable phenotypes from the variation in the existing gene pool of a species and is beyond the purview of this report, even though it has contributed so successfully to modern-day production agriculture. It is firmly entrenched in our agricultural communities, and many are generally conversant with its benefits and risks. Importantly, other forms of research-driven biotechnologies, based on improved insight into reproductive physiology and endocrinology, embryology, genetics, and animal health also have made their way into standard farming practices over the last 75 years (Box 1.2). A few of the procedures listed extend the boundaries of biotechnology to the development of organisms that have a combination of traits generally not attainable in nature through conventional breeding and are not themselves without controversy. Some of those listed are perceived by both scientists and lay people as endangering human health or as adversely affecting animal welfare or the environment. Certain of the technologies even can have unintended, long-term consequences on the economics of agriculture itself. Finally, some of the concerns raised about the technologies in Box 1.2 are quite relevant to those listed in Box 1-3. Although several of these technologies remain experimental and have not yet become a part of standard agricultural practice, others (e.g., commercialization of transgenic fish) are undergoing government review for commercial approval. It is these newer technologies on which this report is focused. For these reasons, it is worthwhile discussing Box 1.2 and some of the issues that these technologies have raised before moving on to the ones associated with Box 1.3.


Animal Health

There are well-established guidelines for the application of technologies that maintain animal health, such as standard vaccination against viral and bacterial diseases. Indeed considerable efforts are being made to expand the

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