Man’s even better friend?

Debate on genetically modified pets

source: Philip Cohen
New Scientist July 14 2001
starts p10, 2 pages long

Genetically modified pets are likely to become available, and work is already being carried out. Transgenic Pets of Syracuse aims to produce genetically modified cats which do not trigger allergies in humans, while others aim to genetically modify pets to produce healthier animals, for example, by correcting defects in their genes. Conventional breeding is a slower way of changing pets, and cats still have an allergen, ‘Fel d 1’. There could be other benefits, especially where guide dogs are concerned. A lot of time is invested in training these dogs, so improvements in their longevity would be useful.

Cloning is one way of producing modified animals, though cats and dogs have yet to be cloned. Techniques which are being developed as a way of saving endangered species can also be applied to pets, and many people may want their pets cloned, perhaps with improvements, such as more resistance to cancer.

There are welfare concerns relating to cloning, and it is uncertain whether technology can be developed to tackle health problems of cloned animals. The regulations covering genetically modified animals are stricter in Europe than in the US. There is some concern about the impact on the environment, and whether pet owners would want humans cloned once they have taken a first step of cloning pets.