The meat industry has long been hailed as one of the most significant factors driving global warming — and this is in addition to being damaging to your health. However, Chinese scientists are looking to change all that, and they have cloned a genetically modified lamb that instead of producing the unhealthy fat commonly found in lambs, creates a healthy fat that contains high levels of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and nuts.

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The lamb called Peng Peng was created in a Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) laboratory in Xinjiang, western China. There scientists introduced a gene from a roundworm into a donor cell taken from the ear of a small Chinese Merino sheep. Once implanted into an unfertilized egg, it was fertilized and the resultant embryo was implanted into the womb of a surrogate sheep.

The scientists, led by Dr Yutao Du, of the BGI in Shenzhen, hope the breakthrough will reduce the emissions caused by livestock as well as producing a healthier alternative to organic lamb.

“The gene was originally from the C. elegans roundworm which has been shown to increase unsaturated fatty acids, which is very good for human health,” Dr. Du said in an interview to The Telegraph. He added that omega-3 fatty acids not only protect against heart disease, but could even boost brainpower. He also noted that the BGI was now “ready for the industrial-scale development” of GM sheep.

However, before you start worrying about Peng Peng ending up on your dinner plate in the near future, rest easy. Currently, no GM animal has been approved for human consumption anywhere in the world, and China is no exception.

“The Chinese government encourages transgenic projects, but we need to have better methods and results to prove that transgenic plants and animals are harmless and safe for consumption; that is crucial,” he said.

Peng Peng is not the first GM-modified cloned animal to make the headlines recently. Last month a rare Himalayan goat was cloned in order to produce a specific type of wool, and US firm AquaBounty have patented a GM Atlantic salmon that contains a gene from another fish allowing it to grow twice as quickly. It is rumored to be the first ‘transgenic’ animal will be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration this summer.

While GM crops are commonplace these days, there is something, to say the least, worrying about a cloned animal being created for consumption. However, it is better than the artificial meat currently being studied.

+ Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI)

Via The Telegraph

Images by geese and StuartWebster