Azara Blog: Viruses and GM chickens

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Date published: 2011/01/13

The BBC says:

UK scientists have created the world's first genetically modified chickens that do not spread bird flu.

Writing in Science journal, the team says their work demonstrates it is possible to create a variety of GM farm animals resistant to viral diseases.

The research team inserted an artificial gene into chickens; this introduces a tiny part of the bird flu virus into chicken cells.

These birds become infected but render the virus harmless to other poultry.

The team believes that the genetic modification they have introduced is harmless to the chickens and to people who might eat the birds.

Professor Helen Sang of Edinburgh University told BBC News that genetic modification is potentially a much better way of protecting against diseases than vaccination because the GM technique works even if the virus mutates.

"It will protect a whole flock from avian influenza infection. This is really exciting because bird flu is a real challenge to poultry production and if it were introduced to poultry breeding it would protect our large scale production flocks from avian inlfuenza," said Professor Sang.

The researchers say that, in principle, the technique could be used to protect any farm animal from any disease. The eventual aim is to develop animals that are completely resistant to viral diseases.

It remains to be seen whether these techniques will ever be used in the UK. For one thing, it takes years to get anything, even non-controversial techniques, introduced into farming. More importantly, the usual suspects, who (fairly successfully) campaigned against GM crops, will no doubt campaign against this GM technology as well, and will try to convince the public (with help from media organisations like the BBC) that this is "frankenfood". The UK (and European) ruling elite is dominated by people who cannot cope with 20th century food technology, never mind 21st century food technology.

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