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The European Union has banned the cloning of farm animals. What are the reasons? Does it make sense so far? We talk to Lluís Montoliu, researcher at the National Center for Biotechnology.
Considered as one of the classic ethical debates in biology, cloning of animals refocuses the political and scientific agenda. A few weeks ago, MEPs approved a ban on cloning href=”http://hipertextual.com/tag/clonacion”> farm animals with 529 votes in favor, 120 against and 57 abstentions.
The European Parliament adopted a ban on animal cloning and food derived from them
The result of this discussion was seen as a victory for organizations such as Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), entity described the vote as a “wonderful triumph that could prevent hundreds of animals have a life of misery and suffering.”
Are these claims? What are the differences between the cloned animals and those produced by fertilization or other assisted reproduction techniques? Is it safe to eat foods such as meat and dairy products derived from these living beings? To solve our doubts talk to the Dr. Lluís Montoliu , a researcher at the National Center for Biotechnology.
Dolly was not the first cloned animal
In this debate, the memory of the Dolly has been very present. The mammal created by Dr. Ian Wilmut of the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, was the first mammal created from adult cells by nuclear transfer technique. The sheep quickly became a media animal, despite not being the first clone history.
The cloning was implemented regularly in mammals after the birth of Dolly the sheep
The cloning of animals, says Montoliu to Hypertext , “it is an alternative method to natural crosses and assisted reproduction systems as insemination or fertilization in vitro “. Thanks to this technique, says the scientist, can “get very similar to one given individuals more effectively and more safely.” Although these methodologies were applied since the decade of the 50 to 60 mainly amphibians like frogs, it was not until 1996 when cloning was first used regularly in mammals, after the birth of Dolly.
It was Dr. John B. Gurdon awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2012, which achieved the first cloning of a frog in 1958. Using nuclear transfer, the scientist at the University of Oxford was able to extract the nucleus from a skin cell of an adult frog, then transfer it to a fertilized oocyte, which previously had its nucleus removed. Thanks to this experiment, it was proved that an adult cell specialist has the genetic information necessary to give rise to a whole organism.
The arrival of Dolly, almost forty years after the work of Gurdon, was a real revolution in the field of biology . Animal cloning jumped well in the laboratory bench to the media . In this case, the sheep had a peculiarity: his birth was made possible by three mothers : the sheep from which extracted the oocyte, the sheep taking DNA and which served as “surrogate mother”.
The complexity of reprogramming processes occurring explains the low efficiency of the technique
Six years after the birth of the sheep Dolly, scientists at Edinburgh were forced to sacrifice. The animal suffered from serious arthritis and progressive lung disease. Resurfaced and ethical debate on the cloning of animals, but later research showed that his poor health was due to the small size telomeres. The sheep which had removed the “DNA Dolly” was four, with the result that the cloned sheep will not have a biological age of six but ten. This “premature aging” could explain some of the problems that suffered.
Despite these findings, the researcher National Center for Biotechnology calls prudence and caution in assessing Dolly case, since this is “an experiment with an individual”. Cloning continues Montoliu, “involves cellular reprogramming,” ie “the core used to reconstruct the embryo to” forget “its previous stage and reprogrammed to be able to sustain a full embryonic development.” The complexity of this process explains that many “reconstructed embryos” do not go to term and that the effectiveness of the technique remains low.
The risks according to the EFSA
The media impact Dolly had was enormous. Research in the Roslin Institute Striped argument many science fiction movies. The premature death of the sheep was widely criticized by advocacy groups of animals, as CIWF, which describes cloning as “a cruel practice that has dire consequences for animal welfare.”
” Cloning is a technique in the field of assisted reproduction “
Is it really this practice contrary to the rights of these living beings? According Anneliese Dodds, “public opinion has remained skeptical about the cloning of animals due to ethical and moral reasons.” British MEP, who has justified his blog the reasons for their vote, also noted that “many cloned animals die in the course a few weeks of painful and cruel way. ” Their arguments are quite similar to those made by CIWF, an institution that has acknowledged having worked as “lobbying pressure” to ban the cloning of animals in Europe.
Montoliu, however, rejects the arguments these associations or MEPs. “I do not think animal cloning should be prohibited but regulated and ensure that is done in specialized and properly trained personnel centers,” he says. The scientist said that, contrary to what publicized by groups such as CIWF, “cloning is a technique in the field of assisted reproduction.” In the words of Montoliu, “a cloned animal not genetically have been modified indistinguishable from an animal not cloned” .
The measure driven now by Parliament, which does not affect the investigation or cloning endangered species, relies on three resolutions of European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). What can then be the interest in obtaining clones of farm animals? As Montoliu points, generating very similar to other individuals, select the first animal to “possess special characteristics”, such as production exceptional milk, meat quality or disease resistance.
According to the EFSA, meat or milk from cloned animals are fully confident
2008 Community organization said that there were no food safety problems in relation to meat or dairy products derived from cloned animals. CNB researcher agrees with the EFSA, stating that “there is no scientific justification that can be used to argue the ban on consumption of meat from cloned animals.”
EFSA also stated that “the health and welfare of a significant proportion of clones, mainly during the juvenile period for cattle and perinatal phase pigs are severely affected, often so severely that it causes the death of the animals.” Despite these statements, the agency admitted that “the technique of somatic cell nuclear transfer had also produced healthy clones of cattle and pigs, and whose offspring also had a status similar to that of non-cloned health, based on parameters physiological or clinical “.
In 2009 and 2010, thanks to new scientific results, the company reaffirmed its conclusions on the impact of cloning on the health and animal welfare. Moreover, the institution also stressed “limited data” on food security and environmental impact of foods derived from cloned animals. The available scientific evidence on risks, EFSA commented, could be extended to the “surrogate mothers” used as “suffering placental dysfunctions that contribute to a high number of abortions.” This would explain the low efficiency of animal cloning, despite decades of research, remains of 6-15% to 6% for cattle and swine.
The problems in cloned animals also affect to embryos for other assisted reproduction
With regard to the problems of surrogate mothers, Montoliu notes that “cloned animals develop a fetal growth beyond what is normal”, by so most are born by Caesarean section to avoid compromising the health of the female that feat. We now know that the stress of cell reprogramming results in the alteration of genes that control growth patterns. But what about mothers who gestate cloned animals? The problem is called THE syndrome ( large-offspring-syndrome , in English), and Montoliu explains, “not only affects the growth of embryos by cloning, but also embryos obtained through assisted reproduction techniques http “
The social impact of cloning
According to Eurobarometer 2008, a large majority of Europeans (81%) knew the” cloning of animals. ” Countries such as Denmark (96%), Slovenia (93%), Luxembourg (92%) and the Netherlands (91%) were those with a higher percentage of citizens who had ever heard of this concept. In Spain, this proportion decreased to 76%. The media impact of Dolly explains to some extent this great knowledge. According to the results, 80% of European society related cloning “creating an identical copy”.
However, in some cases the term “cloning” erroneously was associated, as an 49% of respondents also thought that meant the genetic modification. But the birth of the sheep Edinburgh also triggered new fears and fears, since 84% of citizens think that animal cloning would cause unknown effects on nature. 77% believed that this technique also lead the future cloning of human beings , a methodology banned in most of the world
Given these responses, Montoliu notes that “does not like to blame society for what is happening in Europe,” but it is researchers who “must take all The responsability”. “Those who are dedicated to experimental animals used as models for studying human disease, or biotechnological developments, we must do more to explain to society the certain benefits of all these new variadades and animal breeds. “
The rejection today generates animal cloning in Europe is similar to the agencies GM . “Neither of these should be banned for consumption”, he clarifies the researcher, who believes that this situation will change soon with the advent of technology CRISPR-Cas9 , new tools for more effective, rapid and accurate than conventional genetic engineering genome editing. “If we have failed to convey the benefits to society, is error scientists, we must do better, using more understandable words and attending and answering all the questions that logically these experiments raise between society,” he concludes.
October 2, 2015
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