The Legality Of Transgenic Animals And Cloning

Although it has helped research and medicine make great strides in recent years, there are still many debates regarding the legality and limits of genetic modification.
The legality of transgenic animals and cloning

All animals  created by transgenesis, or cloning as it is popularly called are called transgenic animals. In other words, they are genetically modified animals.

What is transgenesis?

You may not have heard the word before, because we mostly refer to the concept as cloning. The basic processes involve the transfer of genetic information from one organism to another.

But researchers  generally do not transmit the entire genetic code. Before the transfer takes place, they must select, remove and isolate certain genes.

So when we talk about transgenic animals, we are talking about transferring one animal’s DNA to another. There are several potential reasons for this, including reproduction.

Can you clone any animal?

Theoretically,  we can use the genetic material (DNA or RNA) from all animals to perform transgenesis. This means that it is theoretically possible to clone animals of all species, including humans.

There are several species that have already undergone genetic modification in the lab. These are mainly insects, parasites, fish, birds and reptiles, but also mammals such as the famous Dolly sheep.

Dolly is the most famous transgenic animal when she was cloned in 1996.

A cloned sheep

However, the vast majority of all transgenic procedures have been performed with rats. This “preference” is mostly due to the fact that rats are small and easy to handle.

They are also inexpensive to care for and adapt well to a life in captivity.

The legality of transgenic animals: the human question

The cloning of the Dolly sheep and the negative consequences that came with it led many countries to re-evaluate their laws on the limits of genetic modification.

It was this and the possibility of genetically modified humans that became the core of the debate.

In 1997, a year after Dolly’s cloning,  UNESCO published the Universal Declaration of the Human Genome and Human Rights.

It clearly expressed its disapproval of transgenesis for human reproduction.

One year later, the European Council approved the first international guidelines banning human cloning. 19 other countries adopted the rules on the same day.

Even today, human cloning is banned in most countries in the EU and the rest of the world.

Welfare of transgenes and animals

However, the EU allows animal cloning,  but there are several specific borders and rules from the European Parliament and in individual countries.

Identical bulldogs

In Spain, for example, there are four laws regarding animal cloning. They all have to do with the limits of the genetic modification of animals:

  • They prohibit the use of animals in procedures and research that can cause mental or physical pain.
  • They say that animals used for experimentation, commercial research and transport must receive proper treatment and basic care, even when it comes to slaughter.
  • A priority is the  protection and welfare of animals  used for experimentation, teaching and scientific research.
  • Anyone who works with animals in this way must prove that they have the required skills and certifications.

Transgenic animals for human consumption

One of the major legal controversies right now is whether we should use transgenic animals for their meat and other products.

In 2015, the European Parliament approved a law banning the cloning of farm animals.

Part of the concern was about the potentially unethical nature of modifying the genes of these species.

If we are to be honest, however, the real reason why it was approved so quickly was the concern about the negative consequences that products from transgenic animals can have on human health.

At the same time, the United States has  approved the sale of products derived from genetically modified salmon. This makes them the first transgenic animal to be created for human consumption.

In 2015, China also announced that it had successfully modified cows to become more resistant to tuberculosis

Since then , Europe’s view of cloning has been  seen as “conservative”. However, many people seem to agree that cloning should be banned to some extent. What do you think?

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