Genetic Engineering of Livestock: The Opportunity Cost of Regulatory Delay

Annu Rev Anim Biosci. 2021 Feb 16:9:453-478. doi: 10.1146/annurev-animal-061220-023052. Epub 2020 Nov 13.


Genetically engineered (GE) livestock were first reported in 1985, and yet only a single GE food animal, the fast-growing AquAdvantage salmon, has been commercialized. There are myriad interconnected reasons for the slow progress in this once-promising field, including technical issues, the structure of livestock industries, lack of public research funding and investment, regulatory obstacles, and concern about public opinion. This review focuses on GE livestock that have been produced and documents the difficulties that researchers and developers have encountered en route. Additionally, the costs associated with delayed commercialization of GE livestock were modeled using three case studies: GE mastitis-resistant dairy cattle, genome-edited porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus-resistant pigs, and the AquAdvantage salmon. Delays of 5 or 10 years in the commercialization of GE livestock beyond the normative 10-year GE product evaluation period were associated with billions of dollars in opportunity costs and reduced global food security.

Keywords: gene editing; genetic engineering; livestock; opportunity cost; regulatory uncertainty.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified*
  • Cattle
  • Female
  • Genetic Engineering / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Genetic Engineering / veterinary*
  • Livestock / genetics
  • Mastitis, Bovine / genetics
  • Mastitis, Bovine / prevention & control
  • Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome / genetics
  • Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Salmon / genetics
  • Salmon / growth & development
  • Swine
  • Time Factors