What am I talking about? Well, let me give you a concrete example. One, which, is rather astounding. As covered in a recent NY Times article, F.D.A. Approves Drug From Gene-Altered Goats:
The drug, meant to prevent fatal blood clots in people with a rare condition, is a human protein extracted from the milk of genetically engineered goats. ...
Made by a company called GTC Biotherapeutics, the human anticlotting protein is produced by a herd of 200 bioengineered goats living under carefully controlled conditions on a farm in central Massachusetts.
Proponents say such “pharm animals” could become a means of producing biotechnology drugs at lower cost or in greater quantities than the existing methods — which include extracting proteins from donated human blood or growing them in large steel vats of genetically engineered cells.
The protein in the goat milk, antithrombin, is sometimes in short supply or unavailable for pharmaceutical use because of a shortage of human plasma donations. GTC Biotherapeutics said one of its goats can produce as much antithrombin in a year as can be derived from 90,000 blood donations. And if more drug is needed, the herd can be expanded.
One goat = 90,000 blood donations? That's rather miraculous as far as I'm concerned. But what are the risks?
Well, cross-breeding of the animals, albeit unlikely since these are highly controlled populations (not to mention worth a tremendous amount to the "manufacturer"), presents a risk. Concerns that the milk or meat might enter the food supply are generally unfounded given the controlled nature. But, all it takes is some mistake or nefarious employee looking to gain a few bucks to crack the system. I honestly don't think it is likely, but it does present a possibility.
As the NY Times reported, "this is the first drug from a herd of genetically engineered animals created specifically to serve as living pharmaceutical factories." So, what issues does this bring up for you in regards to animal rights, environmental or public health risk?
In other words, are you fine with this sort of animal "technology" or does it make you uneasy?