Frequently Asked Questions
What is precision breeding?
Precision breeding is a faster, more precise way to deliver the benefits of crossbreeding, and it dramatically speeds up genetic improvement of plants and animals used for food.
Precision Breeding enables the use of genes already native to the plant or animal that could also be introduced via conventional crossbreeding.
A precision-bred animal is identical to one that could occur naturally through traditional reproduction processes.
These methods give scientists the ability to make small adjustments to the animal’s genome to provide a direct and consistent impact on animals’ well-being and health.
Is precision breeding the same as gene editing?
Yes, especially when referring to use in agriculture applications.
What’s an example of precision breeding application in agriculture?
In the case of dehorning prevention, we make use of the cell’s natural DNA repair functions to replace the horned gene with a naturally occurring polled (hornless) gene.
Are precision bred/gene edited animals and their products considered to be GMOs?
No, they are not GMOs.
What is the difference between a GMO animal and an animal gene-edited?
The GMO process (called transgenesis), typically introduces genetic material from other organisms. The resulting plant or animal couldn’t be found in nature or bred conventionally. Gene editing is a distinctly different process. The gene editing process enables the use of genes already native to the plant or animal that could also be introduced via conventional crossbreeding. A gene edited animal is identical to one that could occur naturally through traditional reproduction processes.
The meat and dairy products from an animal developed using precision breeding are no different from their non-edited equivalents.
Who else is using this technology?
The tools of precision breeding, including CRISPR/Cas9 and TALENS, are widely used by scientists around the world working in public and private institutions focused on human health, agriculture, life sciences, energy and environmental sciences. There are more than 20,000 peer-reviewed publications describing how these tools alter DNA.
Why would food animals be gene edited?
Gene editing or ‘precision breeding’ is a faster, more precise way to improve plant and animal genetics and it significantly speeds up genetic improvement of breeds used for food. Research has proven that animal breeding scientists can safely introduce the targeted traits into any breed with complete precision.
Does this result in a transgenic or GMO animal? Does this mean we’ll be drinking GMO milk?
Absolutely not. The methods used to breed polled cattle do not rely on transgenes (genes from other species) and therefore are not GMOs. The dairy and meat products from gene edited animals are identical to those coming from non-edited animals.
How can I be confident in the safety of the process, the animals bred through this process, and the products from the animals?
Selective breeding techniques and the methods that enable the steady improvement of animal genetics have produced wholesome and nutritious food products for centuries. Hornless cattle have been used in agriculture and safely consumed by humans for thousands of years.
In this case, we are not introducing any traits that could not naturally occur through selective breeding.
How will safety be assured for this and other animals developed using new breeding methods?
Animal breeding practices, on-farm production methodologies and food safety standards are monitored by many governmental and non-governmental agencies and must conform to specific rules. A variety of regulatory authorities monitor compliance to ensure all stages of the production process meets state and federal/national policies, guidelines, and industry best practices. In the US, these include the FDA and the USDA.
How will you keep animals bred using these new techniques from going into countries that don’t allow these practices?
As always, we will honor and follow the laws and regulations of all countries where we do business.
Is there any difference between milk or meat from a precision bred animal from one that was traditionally bred?
No. There is no nutritional, compositional or quality difference.