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Monday, July 6, 2015

GM lamb modified with jellyfish DNA .... lands up in French abattoir !!!

Sheep (Ovisaries) are  ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Numbering a little over one billion, domestic sheep are also the most numerous species of sheep. An adult female sheep is referred to as a ewe;  male as a ram and a younger sheep as a lamb.  Sheep continue to be important for wool and meat today, and  lot of research goes on it which is subject matter of this post.

Genetically Modified animals are nothing new - Transgenic mice, rats and other laboratory animals have transformed human  understanding of human disease and facilitated the development of new drugs - though welfare considerations make their continued use controversial.Goats have been genetically modified to produce human drugs.  Some time back, Scientists in Uruguay genetically modified sheep to glow in the dark. The fluorescent sheep are a world first, the scientists reported. 

The flock of nine lambs  were born  at a farm belonging to the Animal Reproduction Institute of Uruguay, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Pasteur Institute's genetically modified animals unit. The laboratory incorporated a green fluorescence protein into the genes of the sheep, which will glow when exposed to certain ultraviolet light, making the the ruminants easily identifiable as genetically modified.Other than glowing green in UV light, the sheep look and behave normally. Scientists modified the sheep's genes with the fluorescent protein of the Aequarea jellyfish.  It was stated that the sheep were  living a normal life, perhaps even slightly more luxurious than typical sheep.

Now comes the news that lamb genetically modified elsewhere  with jellyfish DNA to give it transparent skin ended up being eaten after it was 'accidentally' sent to French abattoir ! ……

The female lamb,  namedRubis, was created by Europe’s top agricultural research institute, France’s national institute for agricultural research (Inra). Rubis wasn’t the freakish hybrid– all wool and stinging tentacles. Rubis was modified with one specific jellyfish protein that  gave a green fluorescent glow.The research was part of Inra’s “green sheep” programme, launched in 2009. The protein makes the skin transparent and produces a green glow visible in certain ultraviolet light. It is usually used to monitor the activity of altered genes, and in Rubis’ case to monitor transplants for heart disease.

Selling GM foods for human consumption is illegal in France. Inra has strictly no right to sell GM animals.However, Inra’s animal research unit (UECA) does sell unmodified animals to a local abattoir. An internal investigation suspects foul play by one employee, who deliberately sent Rubis to slaughter as revenge during a feud with a colleague.The colossal slip-up that led to Rubis being sent to the abattoir with all the “normal” sheep could do a lot of harm to the institute.According to Inra policy, GM animals such as Rubis are usually euthanised then incinerated.

Irishexaminer.com states that thankfully (for whichever lamb fan ended up eating Rubis) the modified sheep was classified 1 GMO. This means she contained a gene posing “no or negligible risk” to humans.However, that is unlikely to prevent outrage. One former Inra biochemist, Gerard Pascal, told France’s Le Parisien paper that Rubis’ entry to the food chain was “intolerable”.“Beyond the ethical issues, one cannot put foodstuffs into the market that haven’t been the subject of deep research. Until they’ve been studied, one cannot assess the risk,” he said.

Benoit Malpaux of Inra said culprits would be punished. “This is unacceptable and calls for the utmost severity. We are a world-renowned institute. We cannot tolerate such acts.”But the matter will go beyond Inra’s internal investigation. The charge of “placing on the market a genetically modified product or product containing such organisms” carries a maximum one-year prison sentence and fine of 75,000 euro.A French judicial source said: “This affair seems unbelievable and threatens to do harm to an institute that is renowned for its seriousness. But it also shows, if the facts prove correct, that the best-controlled institution cannot ward against individual waywardness.”

INRA believes it may have been a malicious act on the part of two employees.The news comes as new research found that the humble starfish may hold the secret of eternal youth.Swedish scientists say they have discovered that starfish - which can reproduce by cloning themselves - produce a special kind of DNA that doesn't age as it does in humans.However this unique genetic trait was only found in starfish that reproduced by cloning, rather than  sexually.The discovery relates to what are known as tiny structures called telomeres - biological caps found at the ends of chromosomes.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

24th June 2015.

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