In an effort to combat bird flu, researchers have created a glow in the dark chickens. Nearly 50 million turkeys and chickens have been destroyed in the U.S. in 2015 alone because of the bird flu at a tremendous commercial cost. So, although help on this disease issue would be welcomed by chicken and poultry producers, as well as consumers, the idea of eating a genetically modified chicken still leaves many apprehensive.

Glow in the Dark Chickens

Laurence Tiley, who is a professor of Molecular Virology at the University of Cambridge Department of Veterinary Medicine, and who is involved in this research, explained that the goals of their research is to prevent the bird flu from taking hold and then prevent transmission of the infection if a bird does catch it.

The research is being done in Edinburgh's Roslin Institute and Cambridge. Through previous research, they developed a gene that creates a decoy molecule that prevents the growth of the virus. Along with the modified gene they also inserted a florescence protein so that when exposed to the bird flu, the birds would glow in the dark. The glow in the dark chickens allowed the researchers to easily identify the birds with the modified gene.

Interestingly, the funding is being sponsored by two companies who have serious reservations about genetically modified organisms (GMO), U.S. based Cobb Vantress and EW Group from Germany. The modified gene is inserted into the egg yolk along with the fluorescence producing protein. Birds with the decoy gene were much slower to catch the disease once exposed and did not pass the disease to other chickens.

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How Safe is Genetically Modified Food?

It depends on who you ask. Some say that genetically modified food is just as safe as any other, but others feel that messing with Mother Nature can only lead to problems. The Federal Drug Administration took nearly 20 years to approve genetically modified salmon. Some companies, like chicken producer Tyson, which is the parent company of Cobb Vantress, do not want to be commercially involved with certain types of genetically modified foods, but for some companies like Monsanto, it is practically the core business. The problem simply is that genetic modification of foods have not been around long enough to provide a comprehensive judgment.

So Are Glowing Chickens Coming to Your Nearest KFC?

Probably not anytime soon. Having taken nearly twenty years to approve genetically modified salmon, the FDA probably won’t be approving genetically modified chickens soon. In any case, the protein that creates the glow would not be added for commercial production, as it was only for research purposes.

It appears that most in the scientific community feels that GMO foods are safe, the general public needs to be won over by the benefits they offer to the world as a whole in producing disease resistant plants and animals leading to higher production and lower costs. Many feel that GMOs will have unforeseen negative consequences on the environment and the human body. However, admittedly, not many want to eat glow in the dark chickens no matter what side of the fence you’re on.