General Article Animal genetics and biotechnology

Topic Selected: Biotech and Bioethics
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All animal breeding, either from farm livestock such as dairy or beef cattle, or for companion animals such as the many different breeds of dogs, is a type of biotechnology that has been going on for many centuries. Breeders have selected animals that show particular characteristics or traits and used them in breeding programmes to ensure that these traits are retained. What they have been doing is selecting animals with particular combinations of genes. We now know that this type of conventional breeding of animals involves hundreds of genes, most of which are unidentified.

Mapping genes

Modern molecular biology is making it possible to identify how different genes control different characteristics. Scientists are ‘mapping’ the genes on the chromosomes, so that they can see where genes are located and how they function within cells and processes within the animal. This will help identify which combinations give the traits that are desired, making selection of animals carrying th...

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