The Nov. 16 article “Firm wants to gene-edit animals” begs the question about taking this approach to livestock “improvement.” Before rushing head-long into adding and subtracting genetic traits of livestock, we should first look at breeds we’ve already got.

Endangered and lesser known breeds are highly valued by farmers who recognize their economic, easy care, predictability and attributes particularly suited to fit their local environment and farming practice. These are the breeds that make sense – local, diversified, community based and sustainable.

Farmers in the Northeast and Southeast have generations of experience with these highly adaptable breeds of livestock. We can think of these farmers as people who stick to traditional modes of farming and view them as part of our romantic notion of farming. There is nothing wrong with that view but fundamentally, the choices these farmers make in the livestock they raise are grounded in practicality. They know a good thing.

Before we dive into the world of playing with gene manipulation, look around. Do farmers need cattle that can withstand heat – how about Piney Woods Cattle? Take a look at the Livestock Conservancy or ask your local farmer who has sheep you’ve never seen before and it will be obvious there is a different path.

There are no worries about these breeds coming up with devastating abnormalities or some health issue passing on to humans, years of regulatory FDA approval or controversy about Frankenstein livestock. I certainly applaud the goal to ease animal suffering and recognize that there are different livestock farming practices, but we have other choices. At our farm we raise endangered livestock breeds and they are worth raising.

Jo Ann Myers


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