Professor Jon Oatley is one of 11 scientists on a new Gene Editing Task Force that will make regulation recommendations for the emerging genomic technology in animal agriculture.
The task force was formed by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.
Oatley is the director of the Center for Reproductive Biology at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
His recent research focuses on engineering the genetics of farm animals to develop more efficient avenues for food production to meet the needs of an always-expanding global human population
According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the world population is expected to climb to 9.7 billion in 2050 and could peak to 11 billion by 2100.
“The demand for animal protein over the last 30 years has risen by 70 percent; it’s going to continue to rise,” Oatley said. “The idea is that by making genetic changes we can increase the efficiency by which those products are produced, and the quality.”
While the research has worldwide implications, without a reworked federal policy, the work will not be utilized.
Food production animals are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
Currently, the FDA classifies genetically engineered food production animals as those with intentional genomic alterations, which are not allowed for human consumption.
At a gene editing symposium last fall, which Oatley attended, participants concluded work with animal and plant genomes has potential for limiting disease and increasing productivity, but appropriate regulatory processes should be thoroughly considered and structured.
The task force is expected to have their meeting virtually this summer.