Jerry Pommer: Livestock Biotech Conference Preview

BIOtech Now visited with Jerry Pommer, Director of Animal Regulatory Compliance and Quality Assurance for Hematech, Inc. in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Jerry is a member of the program steering committee for BIO’s first-ever Livestock Biotech Summit, which  will provide participants with three days of cross-cutting discussions among industry, academic and government leaders on the care and use of animals in research and the many possibilities in the realm of GE animal research, regulation, and funding within the biotechnology industry. Jerry discusses the unique draw and expectations for the conference, in addition to the GE animals that will be spotlighted – including:

  • Pigs that have been genetically engineered to produce human compatible donor tissues, cells and organs;
  • Cattle that have been genetically engineered to produce human antibodies that can help prevent and/or treat a wide variety of human health conditions and diseases;
  • Cattle that have been genetically engineered to be “prion-free” and therefore resistant to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or “mad cow disease”); and
  • Goats that have been genetically engineered to produce a spider silk fiber in its milk.  With its strength and elasticity, the spider silk has a variety of applications such as providing artificial ligaments and tendons, eye sutures, and for jaw repair. The silk could also have industrial applications in bulletproof vests and improved automobile airbags.

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FDA Sets VMAC Meeting to Consider Genetically Engineered Salmon

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today it will convene its Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee (VMAC) to consider a salmon that has been genetically engineered to reach its market weight in half the time of conventionally raised salmon. 

The VMAC meeting, part of a rigorous regulatory process required to assess such technologies before being approved for commercialization is scheduled for September 19-20.  At this meeting, the Committee will hear from independent experts about the product’s safety, effectiveness, and environmental benefits; it will also collect public testimony and examine 14 years of scientific evidence about the salmon before deciding whether or not to recommend regulatory approval.

The regulatory process for GE animals finalized by FDA in January 2009 ensures the products made available through genetic engineering go through a rigorous review process before being approved for the marketplace.

According to the FDA,

Genetic engineering is a targeted and powerful method of introducing desirable traits into animals using recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology. DNA is the chemical inside the nucleus of a cell that carries the genetic instructions for making living organisms.

In January, 2009, the Food and Drug Administration issued a final guidance for industry on the regulation of genetically engineered (GE) animals. The guidance explains the process by which FDA is regulating GE animals and provides a set of recommendations to producers of GE animals to help them meet their obligations and responsibilities under the law. While the guidance is intended for industry, FDA believes it may also help the public gain a better understanding of this important and developing area.

The first U.S. approval for a GE animal product came in February 2009 when the FDA approved ATryn®, a therapeutic protein derived from the milk of goats genetically engineered to produce recombinant antithrombin.

As the FDA considers its first GE food animal this process may pave the way for new technologies currently in the pipeline.  Research with GE animals such as goats, pigs, sheep, chicken, fish and cattle has yielded a variety of products that can advance human health, mitigate environmental impact, optimize animal welfare, improve state-of-the-art industrial products and provide sustainable food sources in agriculture and aquaculture.

GE Rice in China

This week, Singularity Hub writes about

Genetically modified or genetically engineered (GE) rice in China.

“China grows a lot of rice – about 60 million tonnes a year. It also consumes most of that, only exporting around 1% of its crop. So, high demand for production with little fear of export restrictions? Sounds like a recipe for genetic modification. According to Reuters, China recently approved the commercial use of genetically modified rice and corn to be phased in probably within the next two to three years. Both strains of GM grains were created locally. Huazhong Agricultural University developed Bt rice, which contains proteins from Bacillius thuringiensis bacteria that allow it to resist the rice stem borer, a major pest in China. The Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences likewise developed phytase corn which helps livestock more easily absorb necessary phosphorus from feed. Experts believe that widespread adoption of the GM rice in China may lead to an 80% reduction in pesticide use, and an 8% increase in crop yield. More food, less pollution. With a promise like that, we could see GM rice spread from China to the rest of the world.”

“The short term benefits for China could be enormous. Most of the country’s rice is grown on small farms, and these local farmers are exposed to a variety of pesticides to maintain their crops. Bt rice will drastically reduce the amount of needed pesticides and may relieve the need to flood fields. (Flooding is partially used to reduce the prevalence of parasites.) Phytase corn will not only allow livestock to more easily receive needed nutrients from feed, it will eliminate some of the phosphorus waste present in pig and cow manure.”

If you’d like to know more about feeding the world you might be interested in, The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST), along with BIO, the Council for Biotechnology Information and CropLife International, will host a special “Town Hall Meeting” to promote and discuss the release of CAST’s first publication of the new year, Agricultural Productivity Strategies for the Future: Addressing U.S. and Global Challenges (Issue Paper 45)

The event will take place on Friday, February 12 at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.