How CRISPR makes farm animals bigger, stronger and healthier

How CRISPR makes farm animals bigger, stronger and healthier

How CRISPR makes farm animals bigger, stronger and healthier

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And similar approaches have been used to strengthen carp, tilapia, catfish and other aquatic animals, including oysters. Other researchers are experimenting with different ways to use CRISPR to build disease resistance or create salmon that produces more omega-3s.


You won’t find CRISPR animals on supermarket shelves yet. But some are remarkably close. In 2021, Japan approved the sale of two CRISPR-edited fish. One of them is the muscular red sea bream. The other is a tiger pufferfish which is also designed to be heavier.

The researchers behind the transgenic catfish hope to have it approved for commercial production in the United States. But it could take some time. Only one genetically modified fish has so far been approved for sale in the United States – and it’s taken decades to get there.

This fish, AquAdvantage salmon, has a genetic modification that makes it fat. As a result, it takes 25% less feed to grow these salmon to the size they can be sold, says Sylvia Wulf, CEO and president of AquaBounty, the company that produces the fish.

The company made its first genetically modified fish in 1992. But it didn’t enter the US market until 2021. “For a start-up company founded in 1991, it took more than 30 years to bring its innovative Atlantic salmon to market, at a cost of over US$100 million,” says Wulf.

Approval of genetically modified pigs had a similar timeline. It was in 2001 that PPL Therapeutics (now known as Revivicor) created pigs genetically modified to lack a sugar called alpha-gal. The company’s main goal is to use pigs to grow organs that can be transplanted into people whose immune systems would reject an organ containing this sugar in their cells.

But in 2020, the FDA approved animals for human consumption. These genetically modified pork products, which may be safe for people with alpha-gal allergies, will initially be available only by mail order, according to an FDA press release.

It is difficult to predict how quickly CRISPR animals will progress through the US approval process. But they are on their way.


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