Category Archives: Truth, Light, & Way

Gene Editing Animals – Problem!

This discussion and wrangling continues, yet money is the deciding factor over any other considerations.  As a community, we all will continue being guinea pigs in the new ‘agriculture’ experiment.  We will be caught unawares if we don’t research the food provided to our families.

Leviticus 19:19 You shall keep my statutes; you shall not cause your livestock to breed with different kinds; you shall not sow two kinds in your field; and you shall not allow a garment mixed of mixed fabric to come upon you.

Brave New World: What You Need to Know About Gene-Edited Farm Animals

For decades, the biotech industry has spun a narrative around genetically engineered crops that could be summed up very simply as “jam tomorrow, instead of bread and butter today.”

Sustained—and financed—largely on the promise of spectacular success at some unidentified point in the future, the research and development of new types of GMO foods, made with a whole host of new genetic engineering technologies, has gathered pace in recent years.

These days, without most people being aware of it, genetic engineering is spreading from the crops in the field to the animals in the barn.

Using new genome editing (sometimes referred to as “gene editing”) techniques like CRISPR, biotech breeders are proposing to breed a brave new world of farm animals that don’t get sick, don’t feel pain and produce more meat, milk and eggs at a lower cost than ever before.

Not many NGOs are currently working on this issue and it can be hard to find good information to help make sense of it all. But two recent reports provide in-depth information on the mechanics as well as the ethical issues around gene-edited farm animals.

One, from Friends of the Earth, entitled “Genetically Engineered Animals: From Lab to Factory Farm,” is an extensively referenced report that provides key background information and highlights the urgent need for safety assessments of genome-edited animals.

The other, “Gene-edited Animals in Agriculture,” is a report from a day-long round table in June 2019, co-hosted by my organization, Beyond GM, and Compassion in World Farming in the UK. The round table involved individuals representing a wide range of perspectives. What emerged was a fascinating glimpse into not only the technology, but also the ethics and values systems that underpin that technology.

If you are new to the subject of genetically engineering farm animals for food, if it concerns you or if you just want to know more in order to be an informed consumer, these two reports provide an important starting point.

What are gene-edited animals?

Gene editing is a type of genetic engineering. It is used as an umbrella term for a suite of new technologies, of which CRISPR is the most well-known.

With gene editing, as with older genetic engineering techniques, the organism’s genetic material is changed directly and artificially, by humans using laboratory techniques. This means that gene editing, like other forms of genetic engineering, produces GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

Currently, research priorities for gene-edited animals focus largely on a few high-value animals. Pigs are the priority farm animal, followed by cattle and poultry. Genome-edited fish—particularly salmon and tilapia—are also being developed.

How is gene editing being used on farm animals?

Much of the current research and development is focused on health problems in farm animals raised in intensive, industrial systems. Genome editing has been proposed as a way to protect animals from disease by altering their immune response to diseases like PRRS (Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome) and ASFv (African Swine Fever) in pigs and ISA (Infectious Salmon Anemia, or “salmon flu”) in farmed salmon.

Researchers are also looking at creating animals with desirable commercial attributes, such as the ability to produce more muscle mass (meat) while consuming less feed.

They are also looking for ways to adapt animals to their environments, such as cattle with “slick” coats that protect them from extreme heat.

These problems targeted by the biotech industry are real. But most of them are also man-made—a consequence of the crowded factory farm conditions in which the animals are raised, and the spread of industrial livestock operations into geographical areas (e.g. tropical climates) not well suited to this kind of farming.

Poor health in animals often arises as a result of the systems in which they are kept. Gene editing should not be used to address diseases that primarily arise from keeping animals in stressful, crowded conditions. Such diseases can, and should be tackled by improving things like housing and hygiene, and lowering stocking densities, before turning to selective breeding – of any kind.

What advantages are claimed for gene-edited farm animals?

Genome editing has been proposed as a solution for sustainably feeding a growing world population. Producing animals that grow faster and eat less, argues the biotech industry, reduces input costs for the farmer and, on a global scale, helps reduce the amount of crops diverted to livestock as feed, and may also help to reduce the impact of industrial meat production on global warming.

Gene-editing could be used to control reproduction, for instance to produce more female dairy cows (thus more milk) or more female chickens (more eggs). “Gender skewing” in this way, say biotechnologists, has the added bonus of lowering the number of male cows and chickens culled shortly after birth.

There are also claims that genome editing could be used to “edit out” animals’ ability to feel pain and stress. This, it is argued, would reduce the animals’ suffering in factory farm conditions. Opponents argue, however that this is unethical, reduces the animals to little more than a machine and furthers the interests of those who support factory farming.

Another major argument for gene editing is that it can speed up the breeding process—producing in 2 years an animal that might take 10-15 years via traditional breeding.

This notion of speed, however, may be misleading. Although genome editing is promoted as a fast technology with limitless possibilities, no gene-edited animals have yet made it into farms or the food chain.

Most of the “innovations” you read about in the media are based on studies performed to show what might be theoretically, technically possible. These PR stories are often released by research institutions as a way of attracting the interest of funders that might be interested in financing further work.

But if gene editing can help relieve animals’ suffering, isn’t that a good thing?

Most researchers involved in this work (as opposed to the large biotech companies that eventually market the finished product) are concerned for animal welfare and believe that what they are doing will help animals.

It is worth remembering that those involved in conventional selective breeding believe that they, too, are doing “good.”

However, decades of evidence show that selective breeding for specific traits can have a negative impact on animal health, including skeletal and metabolic diseases, lameness, reproductive issues and mastitis.

The fact is, the more we breed animals to be little more than “production units” in industrial farms, the less likely it is to benefit the animal—whatever the method.

How successful have attempts at gene editing been so far?

Results in animals thus far are not as predictable or reliable as researchers had hoped.

For example, a recent Wall Street Journal investigation reported unintended effects including enlarged tongues and extra vertebrae.

Brazil’s plans to breed hornless dairy cattle, gene-edited with TALENs were recently abandoned when a study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed that one of the experimental animals contained a sequence of bacterial DNA that included a gene-conferring antibiotic resistance. In theory, this antibiotic-resistance gene could be taken up by any of the billions of bacteria present in a cow’s gut or body—and from there be spread beyond the farm.

Other recent research has shown that edited mouse genomes can acquire bovine or goat DNA. This was traced to the standard culture medium for mouse cells, which contains DNA from whichever animal species it may have been extracted from. This mix-and-match DNA is potentially a problem for other genome-edited animals, too. And it raises some urgent questions about authenticity and traceability.

Studies like these, which are appearing with ever-greater frequency, suggest that the science of genome editing in animals is a long way from providing watertight solutions to the problems associated with factory-farmed animals.

Are there any gene-edited animals on the market now?

Although it is promoted as a fast technology with limitless possibilities, genome-edited animals have yet to appear on farms or in the food chain.

The only genetically engineered animals currently on the market is the GMO salmon on sale in Canada and the U.S. This was produced using older style genetic engineering.

Can we achieve the same improvements in farm animals with traditional breeding?

Conventional breeding can also produce robust animals that are suited to their geographical locations. Both farmers and consumers are showing increasing interest in these kinds of “heritage breeds.” And supporting them also helps to protect the diversity of the animal gene pool.

Conventional breeding also has the advantage of not requiring complex regulation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently trying to “simplify” things by proposing that it, rather than the FDA, should have oversight on genome-edited animals and that these animals should be exempt from regulation.

Given the scientific uncertainty around genetically engineered animals, this kind of blinkered rubber-stamping should alarm consumers.

Surely, gene editing is just another tool in the toolbox. Is it right to discount it entirely if one day it might be a useful tool?

Most people agree that our food system is no longer functioning optimally, that it needs to change and is, in fact, changing. Genetic engineers believe that they have something that can help agriculture change. They often refer to gene editing as a “tool in the toolbox.”

This suggests that rather than being a universal panacea, genome editing may be a technology with useful but limited applications and several caveats—i.e. you don’t use a wrench when you need a hammer.

Arguably, more important than the “tool” is the “toolbox” itself, which is what we use to frame our questions, the points of reference we use and how we organize our thoughts.

All over the world, the “toolbox” is the intensive, industrial farming model—these days referred to as “sustainable intensification.” This model drives much of the thinking and decision-making around agriculture and agricultural policy.

In a world where agroecology and regenerative farming are the dominant systems, decisions around genome editing, about when—or indeed if—it is needed might look very different.

There is now a large body of opinion suggesting that, whichever yardstick is used—welfare, sustainability, environment, nutrition—the industrial farming system is damaging and outdated.

If we envisage the future of farming where the industrial model will continue to dominate, then genome editing may take on a more prominent role.

However, if we envisage a future for farming as largely agroecological, and invest in and work conscientiously towards that kind of system change, then it is possible that gene editing won’t have a role to play.

In that future, instead of creating genetically engineered animals to fit into factory farms, we will develop sustainable and ecological animal agriculture systems that support animal welfare, preserve and restore biodiversity and protect public health.

Pat Thomas is a journalist, author and campaigner specializing in food, environment and health. See more on her website. To keep up with Organic Consumers Association (OCA) news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

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Philippine Youth Ministry GOFUNDME

My brother and his wife work with a ministry group in the Philippines and have done so for many years.  Matthew has taken each of his children on two separate occasions to help move, build, support, preach, teach, comfort this family.  If you feel so led, please pray for the ministry and if possible make a monetary donation to help them proclaim the message of Hope and Salvation.

Note from Matthew:

The Short Story

Our friends in the Philippines are in need of funds to construct a permanent home for their student ministry and their residence.  We believe $5,000 USD will purchase a lot and get a basic structure in place. Our family will match up to $2,500 of funds raised through this GoFundMe campaign and personal connections.

The Full Story
Hi, we are the Penn Family in Missouri.  My wife, Shawna is an elementary music teacher and I run a web development company, PennDev, and have been in youth ministry for 20+ years.  Through my business, I’ve developed a small team in the Philippines — one of the guys has been with me for more than 10 years and they really are part of our family.

In 2014, in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda, I hopped on a plane and my team traveled with me to Tacloban to be part of a relief mission.  My friend’s youth pastor, Orland, accompanied us.  I’ll never forget the time we spent serving together!
44916076_1583804995553636_r.jpeg(Above is the current location of the mission.)

Since then, I have followed Orland’s ministry as he was married to his wife Joy, and moved into a new area to be part of a start-up mission in Mahayag.  They are doing tremendous work in the community, as my son and I were able to witness in person this past December 2018.

Orland organizes a youth basketball team. It’s more than a team. It’s a family. Using basketball as the centerpiece, these young men train, compete, fellowship and worship together.  And Orland is able to speak God’s love into their lives day after day.  

The week that I was there, we gathered  a few times at Orland and Joy’s home, which is also the base of their ministry.  My son and I got to watch, firsthand, as these students poured in to take part in the ‘family’ activities. They treated us like family.

44916076_1583802142210575_r.jpegAbove – Orland and his team ready for a big game!

The basketball mission is just one aspect of their work.  Joy opens their home up for tutoring and ministry specific to young girls. They reach out and support local police officers. And they are in the prisons serving meals and offering encouragement.  Their small, home-based church has tremendous, wide-reaching impact! Currently they are reaching more than 60 young people every day. They are literally bursting out of their home!

44916076_1583802175860558_r.jpegAbove – Joy leads a tutoring and children’s mission

Recently, they have been given notice by the landowner that their lease will not be renewed and they will need to move out this year.  It is here where I hope my friends and I can step in and assist. Orland was able to raise local funds to purchase one lot in a nearby neighborhood. A $5,000 gift would be enough for them to buy the adjoining lot as well as build a shell of a building for them to start working and living out of.

Our family is going to help. No question! And we would like to invite you to join us. We will match, dollar-for-dollar, up to $2,500 in this effort. If more than that is raised, the funds will go towards finishing the inside of the structure.  I promise that 100% of the funds will go directly into this mission.  In fact, I will personally visit (at my cost) to lend a hand in the building effort!

What will your donation mean?
Bottom line, your small donation will go extremely far!  You will  be helping secure a permanent home base for Orland and Joy’s ministry.  Your donation will help them continue to reach young people in the Mahayag community for Christ and breathe hope and encouragement into their lives.

How exactly will the funds be used?
1)  We will purchase the 2nd, adjoining lot. This will allow Joy to offer additional educational space and future growth.
2) Construct the initial structure. Four walls and a roof will give them the framework they need to start their dream, as well as raise further local support.

What if extra funds are donated above the goal amount?
I will work personally with Orland and Joy to identify the greatest need when and if this happens. Most likely, additional funds would be used to help build out the structure and provide furnishings.  But, we certainly don’t want to assume anything. Additional funds may be of greater use in another aspect of the ministry.

How soon do we need the funds?
In a matter of months. The landowner is being somewhat flexible, but Orland anticipates that they will be forced to relocate at some point this summer.

Where is this project? Here is an exact location of the lots where we would like to build. Google Map Link . Below is a photo of the empty lots and a parcel map of the neighborhood (it has great access to a major road!).
44916076_1583803917498377_r.jpeg

44916076_1583804007573065_r.jpeg
Why am I passionate about this cause?

As a veteran youth minister and volunteer, I love seeing others who are doing what they can to reach the next generation for Christ. This ministry is authentic.  They are putting skin in the game by opening up their home and lives to the students of their community.  I want to be part of that!

44916076_1583804314459734_r.jpegAbove – my son and I (white guys in the back row!) with Orland’s group.

44916076_1583805626556390_r.jpegAbove – Joy, Orland, myself and my son Geoffrey at their home in Mahayag.

Thank you so much for reading about our cause. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or suggestions.

Matthew & Shawna Penn

Organizer

Matthew Penn
Organizer
Mexico, MO

https://www.gofundme.com/f/philippine-youth-basketball-mission-building-fund?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=m_pd+share-sheet

https://www.facebook.com/donate/1326060327581430/1326068380913958/

YHWH’s Holy Days for 2020

Shabbat Shalom!

There are differences of opinion about how to determine the dates of the beginning of the year and the dates of the Lord’s commanded to keep holy days (for His set apart people).  I’ve studied and, for now at least, this way of Scriptural understanding is what i believe.  However, the dates (not the holy days) should not be a divisive issue.

How to calculate the calendar.
1) A year begins at the first new moon after the vernal equinox.
2) A month starts at the sundown after the lunar conjunction.
See our teachings “Calendar Confusion” and “The Calendar” to learn more.

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Torah Family

I Should Have Been Crucified

Bitterly cold, icy, and windy today, so it feels like a great time to sit down at the piano.  The only song i still have at least passably memorized is “How Great Thou Art” so once that repertoire was complete, i was digging through the piano bench for more sheet music and found my tattered copy of “I Should Have Been Crucified” words and music by Gordon Jensen.  My copy is published in 1972 by John T. Benson Publishing Company in Nashville, TN.

Enjoy and Shabbat Shalom!

tauna

 

I Should Have Been Crucified cover