Innovation, Technology & Consumer Engagement
NIAA News Release, March 21, 2019 – One of the speakers at the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) 2019 Annual Conference during a keynote session, Emily Metz has been in the ag industry her entire career. Recently, Metz has taken on a new and interesting line of work, which she will share with the attendees at the Conference to be held April 8-11, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Metz is the Director of Corporate Communications for Genus PLC, a global biotechnology company working on gene editing projects to benefit animal agriculture. She will give a presentation titled How Gene Editing Can Be Another Tool in Raising Healthier Animals.
First, Metz made clear the difference between Genetically Modified Organisms or “GMOs” and gene editing.
“GMO technology is about inserting DNA to modify the organism,” Metz says. “Genetic coding, or gene editing, is turning off or turning on the genetic coding in an animal’s existing DNA and through that, making changes.” One example of such a change would be identifying a gene in a pig that makes it receptive to a certain disease, such as PRRS, and adjusting it so that the pig is no longer receptive. Metz will outline for the participants at the Conference other products under development that have applications to animal agriculture.
“A few of the products being explored are still in the discovery phase,” she says, “but the future is limitless for both human medicine and agriculture.”
“Gene editing technology is pretty heavily in the news, both for human medicine and crop technology,” says Metz. “The technology also has a huge potential for animal agriculture for raising healthy animals and eliminating disease.”
The theme of the Conference is Animal Agriculture – Innovation, Technology & Consumer Engagement. Metz is focused on how to introduce animals benefiting from gene editing to consumers with trusted information that is relevant to them.
Metz reports that Genus is working on bringing this technology to market, which includes going through the regulatory approval processes and working on consumer acceptance. “The technology is still a few years away from commercialization and there is much work to be done,” says Metz, “but conversations like this one with NIAA Annual Conference attendees is critical to this effort.”
The first act is to meet consumers where they are. “We’ve done very extensive stakeholder and consumer interviews and focus groups to find out where people are gathering their information, so we can present to them there,” says Metz.
For gene editing, Metz says the news coverage has been, by and large, positive or at least neutral. “That gives us the opportunity to shape the dialogue around the technology by providing solid information, and doing that, we are seeing a shift with consumers being be more accepting of new technology.”
“Producers are already excited at having access to this technology, but at the end of the day, it has to be accepted in the marketplace, as well as by the supply chain,” says Metz.
For more information, go to animalagriculture.org.