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Is the Future of Lamb "Naturally" Polyunsaturated?

If research underway in China ultimately results
in marketable meat, “naturally” [[wysiwyg_imageupload:140:]]polyunsaturated meats such as lamb could indeed become the norm. 

Scientists in a laboratory in China's far western region of Xinjiang have cloned a genetically modified sheep containing a "good" type of fat “found naturally in nuts, seeds, fish and leafy greens” that helps reduce the risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.  But Peng Peng, as the prototype lamb is called, has an usual gene in its make-up – a gene linked to the production of polyunsaturated fatty acids but that was taken from a common round worm.  When a gene from one species is transferred to another species, the result is called a transgenic plant or animal.

Lead scientist Du Yutao and colleagues  at the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) in Shenzhen in southern China Du inserted the gene that is linked to the production of polyunsaturated fatty acids into a donor cell taken from the ear of a Chinese Merino sheep.  The cell was then inserted into an unfertilized egg and implanted into the womb of a surrogate sheep.

Talking about his research, Du noted,  "The Chinese government encourages transgenic projects but we need to have better methods and results to prove that transgenic plants and animals are harmless and safe for consumption.  That is crucial."

But there are concerns about the safety of genetically modified foods, and it will be some years before meat from such transgenic animals (with, for example,  an inserted worm gene) finds its way into Chinese or other food markets. 

No transgenic food animals have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration yet, although the first, an Atlantic salmon that has a gene inserted from a Chinook salmon to speed its growth and shorten its time to market remains bottled up in regulatory review.

It’s easy to imagine how reports about transgenic species such as these could be reported emotionally instead of factually.  The challenge for communicators will be to convey the value of the innovations while also straightforwardly discussing the potential or imagined safety concerns.