FDA Approves First CRISPR Cows For Beef - Modern Farmer

FDA Approves First CRISPR Cows For Beef

The genome-edited cattle were bred to endure climate change, and their offspring will be used in meat production.

Slick-coat cattle (left) vs. nonslick cattle.
Photography courtesy of Nature Communications.

Earlier this month, the FDA approved genome-edited cattle for use in meat production. They were bred with climate change in mind, and they have extremely slick, short hair, which is said to help the animals cope with hot weather more effectively.  

The cattle breed, known as PRLR-SLICK, was developed using a genome-editing technique called CRISPR, which is used to breed animals with specific traits. Unlike genetically modified organisms (GMO), which typically involve adding genetic material from other organisms and result in a plant or animal that would not exist in nature, gene-editing utilizes genes already native in a species, resulting in an organism that could, theoretically, occur through a natural breeding process.

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The federal agency called the decision to introduce the beef cattle to be raised for meat “low risk” after determining that the intentional genomic alteration (IGA) of the cattle does not cause any safety concerns. Pending a forthcoming safety review, the meat could land on shelves in as little as two years.

In a press release, the FDA explained that IGAs are “alterations made using molecular technologies that introduce changes to the genome of an animal.” According to Successful Farming, a “precision breeding” company called Acceligen in Minnesota is responsible for utilizing the CRISPR technique to produce the slick-coat cattle. It’s not the first to use the technology on cows, however. In 2020, researchers at UC Davis used CRISPR technology to breed a cow, named Cosmo, designed to produce 75-percent male offspring.

In the past, the FDA has approved similar genetic modifications in salmon, goat, chicken, rabbit and, most recently, pigs. However, the PRLR-SLICK cattle are the first to receive an official “low-risk determination for enforcement discretion,” meaning the administration deemed there are no practical differences in the final product (meat) made by the gene-edited cattle and conventionally bred cattle. 

With the slick-coat trait occurring naturally in some cattle, the gene-edited cattle are the same—as far as a consumer is concerned—as other cattle with the same traits. “Further, the food from the cattle is the same as food from conventionally bred cattle that have the same slick-hair trait,” said the FDA. 

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The FDA reviewed genomic data and other information provided by the developer to reach its safety determination.  

Steven Solomon, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, said in the press release that the decision will likely pave the way for future gene editing. “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 to more efficiently reach the marketplace.”

Farmers that plan to use the PRLR-SLICK cattle will not have to register with the administration. 

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Roger Kubalek
2 years ago

This is less about the “safety” of the food or dealing with climate change, but rather a way for large corporations to control more of the food supply through patented life. Better hope these genetics don’t “accidentally” get into your herd or the henchmen will be after your farm similar to the GMO seed contamination stories.

2 years ago

I do not want to eat this beef, will be seeking to buy from Ranchers who do not participate. I want what The Most High created.

2 years ago

Are you seriously telling us that they are genetically altering the DNA of cows and they don’t have to keep track of it? There’s something seriously wrong with wanting to tamper with DNA especially as much as they’re trying to do now. You really want to know why some people opposed the shot for COVID…. This is exactly why. CRISPR is not safe yet because scientists don’t know DNA 100%. This is crazy. If I told anyone I knew that within the past 5 or so years there were actual real scientists that were awarded and praised for genetic tampering… Read more »

Tyler Stark
2 years ago

Hahaha, don’t they call this the Brahman breed…..short slick hair,heat durable,a Brahman herd will be out grazing and putting on poundage on a 95 degree day while English cattle lay in the shade or cool in a pond,we been raising these animals for over 20 years in the Alabama heat and humidity….BUT LEAVE IT TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES TO STEP IN AND PUT THEIR TWIST ON IT… IDIOT’S.

2 years ago

This is pure insanity. The FDA has no credibility. Yea “low risk” what study’s have even been done (none). We’ve seen all these companies get recalls. This is lab made meat plain and simple. Climate change is a hoax I don’t care what anyone says prove it.

2 years ago

But they can’t find a cure for cancer? Who still believes that?

2 years ago

So using the crispr technique on humans is banned in the USA. But it can be used on (cows) food that will be consumed by Americans?

2 years ago

So in reading this article two things come to mind.
The science is encouraging traits that might or might not have happened naturally.
Two, and possibly the most worrisome. The reason to edit the breed is to cope with Climate Change. So instead of fighting off climate change we’re adapting other parts to live with it!?

jane taylor
2 years ago


2 years ago

We are in so much trouble. The answer isn’t altering the cow, it’s fix the root cause of the climate change. What you are suggesting will only add fuel to the fire and make an already bad situation much worse.