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Rights: The University of Waikato
Published 16 March 2010
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Transgenic technology offers advantages over selective breeding. In particular, it offers a directed approach to target specific traits and allows this trait to be introduced in a generation. Some advantages and disadvantages are discussed.

Questions to consider
How might transgenic technologies be used on our farms in the future?
Can you think of any other advantages or disadvantages to using this technology?

DR GOETZ LAIBLE
Selective breeding has been a very successful technology to really shape our modern day livestock animals, but it is a very slow and drawn-out process and it’s… because it’s a random process, it not only leads to, in many ways, into only progressing with the desired phenotypes or traits, but often we are also carrying on lots of undesirable traits as well.

Now with the transgenic technology, it’s a much more directed process, because we can immediately target a specific trait – and only that trait – by introducing a new gene that holds information for this trait, and you can, just in one generation, produce a huge leap in a difference. An example might be the kappa casein in our casein cows, where we have within one generation increased the production of kappa casein threefold, which would be not possible within a selective breeding approach.

I think one has to keep in mind that the farming of transgenic cows would be a small-scale activity rather than that it will be suddenly replacing the New Zealand dairy herd. So these are speciality herds producing particular protein or having a particular trait for a particular product, and the big advantage would be that these animals would produce a higher-value product compared to a standard milk. There could be advantages also because of this high value that it will reduce the environmental footprint of farming these particular animals rather than for a normal milk. On the negative side, it certainly would be associated with compliance costs.

Acknowledgements:
Future Beef NZ “Hook and Hoof”
NZ Charolais Cattle Society Inc
New Zealand Holstein Friesian Association Inc