News - June 13, 2013

Parliament rejects GM chickens

Alternative to killing 40 million chicks has been shelved.
DLO will not get dispensation for contentious study.

An alternative to killing 40 million one-day-old chicks a year, thought up by Wageningen UR, has met with objections in the Dutch Lower House. The reason: politicians oppose the genetic modification it entails. The rejection means Dijksma, the state secretary for Economic Affairs, will be taking another look at the dispensation DLO needs to continue with the research.
Livestock Research in Lelystad wants to attach a fluorescence gene, found for example in jellyfish, to the sex chromosome of male chicks. This gene lights up under a special lamp, which means eggs containing male embryos can be identified and do not need to be hatched. The future laying hens will not have that gene.
This research is part of a broader programme at Wagenin­gen UR to determine the sex of eggs so that fewer cocks are born and have to be slaughtered. Other options for reducing the vast number of one-day-old chicks that have to be killed turned out not to be feasible.
However, genetic modification is a step too far for the political parties PvdA, SP, CDA, ChristenUnie, Green Left and Party for the Animals. They think the sector's economic problems should not be solved by messing with the animals, reports farming magazine De Boerderij. They feel there are alternatives and they prefer the idea of the 'combi-chicken', for example, whereby the male chicks can be used for meat production. But the problem with the combi-chicken is that it cannot compete in terms of cost with specialized chickens.