Genetic Engineering In China Is Exploding

Written by Kristine Servando

This means that genetic  research will be a complete free for all.  It probably will have to be.  I know that this does not make anyone comfortable. It does mean that  ethical niceties will be mostly ignored.  Those may come as the technology matures and it is all better understood.
Think in terms of Frankenstein unleashed.  This is no longer an impossibility.
Genetic Engineering In China Is Exploding 

As Technocracy in China matures, all moral and ethical restraints have been removed. Every conceivable type of life based on DNA is now open to genetic editing. In other words, China is taking over life itself. ⁃ TN Editor

Inside a fortress-like megafarm on the outskirts of Beijing, dozens of pink-and-black pigs forage and snooze, unfazed by the chilly spring air. These experimentally bred hogs are fortified with a gene for regulating heat, buffering them against northern China’s hypothermia-inducing winters.

The gene that researcher Jianguo Zhao inserted into the pigs’ DNA is among dozens of examples of genetic engineering underway in China—and in rival laboratories across the world—to create super pigs. For years, the quest was for better-tasting, stronger, and faster-growing swine. Now, in the wake of a devastating global outbreak of African swine fever, the more crucial need is to safeguard food security, and keep hogs alive.
“The most burning question for scientists is how to make the pig more healthy,” says Zhao, 45, who heads a 20-strong group of researchers and technicians at the state-run Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Zoology in Beijing, where he’s become a superstar in the world of swine genomics.
China’s ambitions, though, extend well beyond farm animals. In dozens of labs across the country, scientists are ⁠racing researchers in the U.S. and Europe to develop superior lines of food and fiber crops, while others are pushing the boundaries of medical science—sometimes facing criticism—by editing the human genome to correct disease-causing mutations or susceptibility to infections like HIV.
“The most burning question for scientists is how to make the pig more healthy”
It’s a biotechnology arms race happening against the backdrop of a disruptive trade war with the U.S., a rapidly aging population, and diminishing resources to feed China’s 1.4 billion people. Soaring pork prices prompted the State Council, China’s cabinet, in September to call for the greater use of science and technology, among other measures, to boost production of the country’s staple meat.
Read about how Chinese parents use DNA tests to map out their babies’ lives.
China’s investment in research and development has already catapulted the world’s most populous nation from relative obscurity in biomedical science to behemoth in less than two decades.
China outspends every other country barring the U.S. on research and development—$445 billion in 2017. Chinese firms have also stepped up acquisitions of foreign biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, with $25.4 billion in deals since the start of 2014, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
But teams in the U.S. and Europe currently have a critical edge, including something China desperately needs: protection from major pig-killing diseases.
China has sought to redress that by sending abroad promising scientists, like Zhao, to learn from the world’s best, then bringing them home and furnishing them with industrial-scale resources. The campus that houses Zhao’s gene-edited pigs is ring-fenced by three layers of security checkpoints and can accommodate 4,000 hogs.
“The powerhouse these days is China,” said Simon Lillico, 47, a scientist at the University of Edinburgh’s historic Roslin Institute, where Dolly the sheep became the first mammal cloned from an adult cell in 1996. “They are spending so much money and throwing so much resource at science that we can’t even come close to competing with the amount of money that they are investing in this sort of science, so we need to be smart about what we do.”
China’s market for biologic drugs and agricultural biotechnology remains a fraction of the U.S.’s estimated $228 billion industry, but the upsurge in Chinese investment is already causing anxiety in Washington. In July, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission pledged to investigate the potential risks of America’s growing reliance on Chinese biotechnology and medicines.
Of concern “is the potential for the U.S. to become dependent on China for important pharmaceuticals or other health-care technologies,” said Mark Kazmierczak, a molecular biologist with consulting firm Gryphon Scientific who wrote a report on the industry for the U.S. security review panel. “China’s access to personal information of U.S. citizens, including DNA sequence data, also poses privacy concerns.”
Our reporter took DNA tests in the U.S., and China. Read about why the results concerned her.
Zhao, who grew up in rural Shandong province, embodies the zeal with which China is pursuing genomics, the science of analyzing an organism’s complete DNA sequence. After receiving his doctorate in animal genetics and breeding from an agricultural university in Harbin in 2003, he worked for a few years as an assistant researcher at a medical genetics institute in Shanghai.
Techniques for modifying genomes were slow at the time, he recalls. To expedite his research, he headed to the University of New Orleans a few months after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005 to train under reproductive physiologist Barry Bavister. Decades earlier, work by Bavister had led to the first successful in vitro fertilization of a rhesus monkey, paving the way for the world’s first test-tube baby in 1978.
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Comments (5)

  • Avatar

    jerry krause

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    Hi PSI Readers,

    I have to ask: How is it that we have modern (present breeds of livestock) that are names of certain regions of the ancient British Isles and a few of the European continent? Its called selective breeding and one can read that Jacob practiced it to thwart his farther’s attempted to limit the increase of Jacob’s herds. This selective breeding is just an older form of generic engineering which certainly has included the plant kingdom also.

    Have a good day, Jerry

    • Avatar

      jerry krause

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      Made one of my mistakes and this one so bad that I must correct it. It was not Jacob’s father, but his father-in-law.

  • Avatar

    CharlieW

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    What has to be appreciated is the unbelievable complexity of a living thing. Add to that the complexity of the environment and the organism’s interface with it and you get a level of complexity that no human is able to fully comprehend much less evaluate fully and accurately. I know for decades there was thought to be a lot of “junk DNA” present in an organism. Today, we’re learning that a lot of that does indeed have an important purpose. Making a change to enhance one characteristic, may have unintended consequences the magnitude of which could be devastating. In this field, we’re akin to a 5 year old who has mastered driving his pedal car being handed the keys to a 917-10 Porsche and thinking he can handle a race. This will not end well.

    • Avatar

      jerry krause

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      Hi Charlie,

      Much appreciate your comment which includes: “you get a level of complexity that no human is able to fully comprehend much less evaluate fully and accurately.”

      I ask why should any human consider they should be able to comprehend that which is not yet known? How does what we humans evaluate influence that which naturally occurs. Did the discovery of DNA change that which was naturally was occurring before? My answer is NO. Is what humans have been able to do since the discovery of DNA been positive or negative? My answer is a unqualified yes that what has occurred has been positive. Scientific learning has continually had a positive impact upon humans despite the desire of some to return to the past when there were no vaccines, no wireless means of communication, etc. etc.

      And I question how many understand how it is that Einstein could state: “If YOU can’t explain it simply, YOU don’t understand it well enough.”?

      Have a good day, Jerry

  • Genetic Engineering In China Is Exploding | PSI Intl

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