Israeli scientists assert that they have developed gene-edited chickens that only lay eggs that result in female chicks. The creation might put an end to the annual slaughter of billions of male chickens that are murdered because they don’t lay eggs.
When female chicks mature, neither their eggs nor the initial genetic change is still present.
The project has received backing from Compassion in World Farming, a group devoted to animal welfare.
The development of the “Golda hen,” as the project’s chief scientist Dr. Yuval Cinnamon of the Volcani institute west of Tel Aviv calls it, would have a big influence on animal welfare in the chicken industry, he told BBC News.
“I am really glad that we have invented a method that I think can actually revolutionize the business, first and foremost for the benefit of the chickens but also for all of us, since this is a problem that impacts every individual on the earth,” he was cited as saying by the source.
The Golda chickens now have gene-edited DNA that can stop the development of any male embryos discovered in the eggs they deposit. The DNA is triggered after the eggs have been exposed to blue light for a number of hours.
The growth of female chick embryos is unaffected by the blue light. Dr. Cinnamon asserts that neither the eggs they deposit nor the chicks have any extra genetic material.
He promised that both farmers and consumers would receive the same chicks and eggs. The only negligible alteration in the creation process is that the eggs will be exposed to blue light.
As Dr. Cinnamon’s team plans to license the technology through its spin-off business, Heumann Poultry, they haven’t made their results public, making it hard for experts outside of the study group to assess the claims.
However, the UK-based organization Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), whose representatives visited the business and followed the study for three years, has worked with the Israeli team. Peter Stephenson, its chief policy adviser, believes that the breakthrough might be “highly important” for animal welfare.
“Normally, I am quite hesitant to use gene editing in farm animals. However, this is a unique circumstance, and I, along with my colleagues at CIWF, are in favor of it “He told the BBC.
According to the network, legislation that would allow some restricted gene editing for commercial farming in England is now being debated in the UK Parliament. After the measure is enacted at the beginning of the next year, it is envisaged that rules will be gradually loosened, enabling the technology to be used initially just for plants.
The government thinks that gene editing (GE) will be more widely accepted than the more conventional kind of genetic modification (GM). While GE frequently involves removing DNA from genes to manipulate them, GM generally involves inserting DNA, potentially from a different species.