LOGAN – Since June 2020, Utah State University President Noelle Cockett has chaired a national task force of experts charged with evaluating the framework the Food and Drug administration uses for approving and monitoring gene-edited farm animals.
Dr. Cockett, a renowned geneticist, said we are now in the era of CRISPR genetic-editing techniques, which are used with great precision in generating new genetically modified animals for food.
“We are very, very encouraged by that,” Pres. Cockett said. “We want to get everyone at the table and look to a new day of approval in regulations based on this newest technology — CRISPR — and acknowledging this CRISPR technology can be very, very precise.”
Dr. Cockett said the science is there but an outdated approval system in this country is limiting progress and if the U.S. doesn’t improve the pathway to market for genetically-edited farm animals, we will continue to fall behind other countries, including China.
“They have a very highly productive meat line of sheep,” Pres. Cockett added, “and they genetically edited that line so they now produce Angora hair and now you have an animal that produces both meat and Angora fiber. So, there are countries out there that have moved ahead in this realm and the United States is falling back.”
She said her group is not suggesting there be no regulation in the gene-editing of farm animals. They support looking at the magnitude of that change and that the regulation and approval process of those animals should be tiered across the magnitude of the change.
Dr. Cockett joined the USU faculty in 1990 as an animal geneticist and her research program centers on the identification of genetic markers associated with economically important traits in sheep.
A joint report from her task force concludes that a remodeling of the federal regulatory landscape is needed so the U.S. can sustain its place as a global leader in the animal agriculture sector.