The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that short-haired cattle produced through CRISPR gene-editing technology are safe for human consumption. The cattle, known as PRLR-SLICK, were the first to receive an FDA “low-risk determination for enforcement discretion” after the agency determined the intentional genomic alteration (IGA) of the two genome-edited cattle does not raise any safety concerns.
Produced by Acciligen with climate change in mind, the cows have a genetic trait that gives them a short, sleek coat which is said to help the animals cope with hot weather more effectively. The FDA’s low-risk determination means the agency does not expect Acciligen, a “precision breeding” company, to seek regulatory approval before marketing products from the cattle.
The FDA spent years reviewing the two other genetically altered animals approved for human consumption—a faster-growing salmon and a pig the agency determined was safe for consumption by people with meat allergies. However, the review process for the CRISPR beef cattle took less than a year because the FDA noted the gene-editing results in the same slick-hair trait seen in cattle that are found in conventional agriculture. Talking about the Mar. 7, 2022 approval, Steven Solomon, director of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine, said:
“We expect that our decision will encourage other developers to bring animal biotechnology products forward for the FDA’s risk determination in this rapidly developing field, paving the way for animals containing low-risk IGAs (intentional genomic alterations) to more efficiently reach the marketplace.”
Looking closer at Acceligen, the company website says that most of its workers have backgrounds in the farm industry. The company explains that “precision breeding” is different from conventional breeding or genetically modified organisms (GMO) in that it allows a “highly desired trait” that may typically take years to show up to be expressed in “just one breeding cycle.”