Genus Developing PRRSv Resistance

At Genus PIC we talk to farmers every day. And when their animals aren’t healthy, farmers and their businesses can be devastated, emotionally and economically.

Since the discovery in the 1980s of one of the biggest swine diseases, Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, also known as PRRSv, farmers of all types – organic and conventional, large and small – and their animals have suffered.

Unfortunately, there are many livestock illnesses that currently cannot be effectively prevented or treated by traditional veterinary medicines or vaccination. And these illnesses can lead to things like premature death or the need for increased use of antibiotics over a lifetime of an animal. PRRSv is one of these diseases.

Imagine a world in which animals don’t get sick from devastating diseases that attack all types of farms around the world.

Genus is currently using gene editing to help eradicate particularly dangerous diseases in farm animals like PRRSv, so our food system can remain healthy and sustainable and our animals can have a better quality of life.In partnership with the University of Missouri, Genus is researching the use of gene editing to precisely change the DNA of an animal without introducing genetic materials from another plant or animal. We are researching how to silence or “turn off” genes that make animals susceptible to specific diseases. We are using the same gene editing technology being used to combat serious diseases in human medicine, CRISPR Cas-9.

Genus is in an investigative stage with this technology and we expect it will take more than five years to reach commercialization of the first PRRS resistant pigs from gene editing.

Animals should not suffer needlessly from unpreventable diseases and the use of innovation and science may finally make that a reality.

Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve collected answers to commonly asked questions about gene editing.

How does gene editing work?

Genus scientists researching the use of gene editing to precisely change the DNA of an animal do so without introducing genetic materials from another plant or animal. The potential result is a DNA sequence in an animal that could have been derived through naturally selective breeding but made possible much more quickly and at greater scale. Genus is researching using gene editing to silence or “turn off” genes that make animals susceptible to specific diseases. Genus is not researching the use of gene editing to insert new genes.

What are the benefits of gene editing?

  • Disease resistant animals from gene editing could live healthier lives with less illness and unneeded suffering.
  • Disease resistant pigs and cows from gene editing could reduce the amount of medicine and antibiotics used in farm animals.
  • Ultimately, this means farm animals could be healthier and farming more sustainable.

Has Genus caused pig suffering with gene editing?

Genus R&D uses gene editing technology to improve animal welfare and eradicate disease to allow animals to live healthier lives, not to harm animals. Genus closely monitors for any unintended consequences from the breeding process with ongoing field trials. Monitoring and tracking all animals from breeding stock is critical to advancing scientific knowledge and ensuring all desired characteristics are present without any unforeseen negative characteristics, such as behavior problems

Is your testing harmful or painful for animals?

Genus is dedicated to the well-being of all animals in their care and in developing technologies that will help reduce animal disease and suffering.

How can consumers be sure that pork produced from gene edited pigswill be safe for them to eat and serve their families?

As part of Genus’ regular business operations, it continually tests new generations of pigs to ensure they carry desirable traits and do not carry any unexpected traits. Genus also tests to make sure that meat from any animal entering the food system is at least nutritionally equivalent to meat from pigs currently in commercial production. Before commercialization, this technology will go through more than 5 years of testing and multiple generations of pigs.

This video was produced for Genus by BBC StoryWorks, the commercial content division of BBC Global News.