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Safety of genetically engineered and gene edited livestock

Several species of food animals have been genetically engineered with the intent of improving either animal productivity, the environmental footprint of farming or the health benefits of animal food products. In addition to investigating the desired impact of the transgene, transgenic animals must also be studied to ensure that the presence of the transgene and transgene product are not in any way detrimental to the transgenic animals themselves. Our lab was one of the first to conduct and publish risk assessment studies on transgenic livestock. This includes investigation of general traits such as the reproduction, growth, lactation and behavior of the lysozyme line of genetically engineered dairy goats in order to contribute to the general knowledge regarding the welfare and safety of genetically engineered food animals and their products. This basic risk assessment work is also extended to the identification of any off-target effects on the host and non-target organisms at the whole animal level by conducting metabolite and microbial profiling. We are also working on methods to assess the fidelity and specificity of the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing system. This science-based information is of great value to both regulators and the general public in assessing the safety of genetically engineered food animals.