Loading...

Genetically Modified Chickens Developed to Prevent Spread of Bird Flu

As lawmakers continue to tackle approval of genetically modified salmon, scientists have developed yet another genetically modified animal that might one day be approved for human consumption: chickens.

New research published last week in Science shows that chickens can be genetically modified to prevent the spread of bird flu.

Commercial adoption of this technique could help prevent outbreaks of bird flu within chicken flocks. Many viruses that infect humans, such as the H1N1 swine flu strain that killed 6,000 people in 2009, start in domestic birds before jumping to humans. Preventing virus transmission in chickens would reduce the chance of the virus affecting humans.

Although bird flu is uncommon in the U.S. right now, it is a significant problem in many parts of Asia and the Middle East.

This study is just the first step in developing a chicken that is resistant to avian flu. Several years worth of safety tests will be needed before genetically modified chickens and eggs end up at your local grocery store.

However, I wonder if development of such a chicken would even be necessary without large-scale poultry farms. Industrial chicken farms house up to 100,000 chickens confined in tiny cages or crowded indoor spaces. Under these conditions, diseases like bird flu spread rapidly. Eliminating factory farms might reduce the need for a genetically modified chicken.

What do you think? Is genetic modification of chickens a promising weapon against a threat to human health and global food security? Or does this new technology fail to address some of the root causes of emerging diseases?

Image courtesy of MrTopher via a Creative Commons license.

4 comments
  1. Casey terHorst

    My guess is that by the time these GM chickens are available for human consumption, new bird flu strains will already have evolved that are able to infect the GM chickens. In an arms race, the viruses win.

  2. Bill

    It would start a lot of small farmers growing non GM poultry to a wary public. There is sufficient evidence for alarm on most GM foods fed to laboritory animals, especially by the 3rd. generation. Big corporations are able to influence universities who do research and receive huge donations and government officials to overlook these alarm beels for their own benefit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *