Special Issue "Genome Editing in Animal System to Support Sustainable Farming and Pest Control"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Agriculture, Food and Wildlife".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 December 2020.

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Gerhart U. Ryffel
Guest Editor
Institute of Cell Biology (Cancer Research), Universitätsklinikum Essen, Hufelandstraße 55, 45147 Essen, Germany
Interests: agricultural sustainability; agricultural biotechnology, gene manipulation; gene editing, gene flow, risk assessment; organic farming
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Genome editing is a novel and precise approach for modifying the genetic background and altering the genome of living organisms. By mimicking natural mutations, its use should not cross species barriers and, thus, there may be less concerns regarding alterations to the ecosystem when applying this technique. While in plants, many successful approaches have been developed and have started to enter the market, genome editing in animal systems has not yet been applied on a broad scale, and no commercial commitments have been made so far. In this Special Issue, the potential as well as the concerns of genome editing in animal systems—from insects to mammals—will be explored. The main focus of publications should address its contribution to sustainable animal farming, but should also discuss its potential for pest control in agriculture and health control as well as for the eradication of invasive species in disturbed ecosystems.

The contributions may be either original research reports, reviews, or perspectives.

The main topics to be covered include, but are not limited to:

  • Genome editing in farm animals;
  • Genome editing in pigs for xenotransplantation;
  • Gene drive systems to combat invasive species;
  • Gene drive systems to control pest in agriculture and in health control;
  • Ethical concerns;
  • Regulatory aspects on a national and international scale.

Prof. Dr. Gerhart U. Ryffel
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • genome editing
  • sustainable biotechnology
  • animal breeding
  • pest control
  • gene drive
  • xenotransplantation
  • invasive species control
  • ethics
  • regulatory aspects

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title:Sustainable strategies of the avian genome editing model development

Authors:Young Min Kin and Jae Yong Han

Department of Agricultural Biotechnology and Research Institute of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Seoul National University, Seoul, Republic of Korea

*Corresponding author: Dr. Jae Yong Han, E-mail: [email protected]

Abstract:Avian models are valuable animal species that specialized in food resource but also in model of development and reproduction study. Recent rapid progression of genome editing technologies allows avian species to become a unique agricultural, industrial, disease resistant and pharmaceutical model. In other animal species, direct introduction of genome editing tools such as CRISPRs into early embryos have been accomplished. However, in birds, introduction of CRISPRs into the primordial germ cells (PGCs), as a germline competent stem cell, are considered to be much more reliable way of developing genome edited avian model. This review presents the recent progress of CRISPRs and PGC-mediated genome editing in avian species, and gives a direction for sustainable avian genome editing model development in specific disease resistance, new agricultural values, bio-pharmaceutical production and biological models.

Title:Application of genome editing in pigs for disease resistance

Authors:Huaqiang Yang*

National Engineering Research Center for Breeding Swine Industry, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou 510642, China

* Correspondence: [email protected]; Tel.: +86-15521148340

Abstract: Pigs are one of the most important meat sources in the world. A healthy development of pig industry is required to meet the increasing global food demand. However, current pig industry based on intensive pig framing is severely threatened by diseases, mainly infectious diseases caused by various viruses and bacteria, which affect both animal welfare and productivity. Addressing the problem in a cost-effective and sustainable way is to increase host resistance to infections or diseases through selecting or creating specific genetic variants associated with a resistant phenotype. To this end, alternative and advanced technologies are required, as the traditional selective pig breeding strategy has proven difficult for disease resistance. Genome editing is a fast and efficient method to confer desirable traits to animals by introducing predetermined genetic variants into genome. This technology has shown promising results in establishing disease-resistant animals. The resistance could be achieved through either editing host genes or viral genes. At least two types of genome-edited pigs have been generated to date that are fully resistant to two major infectious diseases, respectively. In this review, we present methods and applications and prospect future of genome editing for disease resistance in pigs. This technology holds great promise in pig breeding not only for disease resistance but also for other favorable traits.


Title:Sustainable agricultural production by genetically modified farm animals

Authors: Heiner Niemann

Medizinische Hochschule Hannover (MHH)/TwinCore 30625 Hannover, Germany

*Corresponding author:[email protected]

Abstract:The first transgenic livestock were produced in the mid 1980ties by microinjection of foreign DNA into zygotic pronuclei. Microinjection remained the method of choice for more than 15 years, when it was gradually replaced by functional somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) protocols. Recently, DNA nucleases, including Zinc Finger Nucleases (ZFN), Transcription Activator-like Effector Nucleases (TALEN) and the CRISPR/Cas (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) system have been successfully applied in livestock species and are compatible with precise modifications of the genome. Although the efficiency of transgenic animal production by microinjection technology was low, many animals with agriculturally important transgenic traits were produced by this method, including improved growth and development, lactational performance, wool production, enhanced disease resistance and reduced environmental impact. However, none of these transgenic livestock has been accepted for commercial use, with the exception of the AquaAdvantage Atlantic salmon from the company Aquabounty. In contrast, biomedical applications of transgenic livestock are well advanced and at least three recombinant pharmaceutical proteins produced from the mammary gland or egg white of transgenic animals have been approved by the supervisory agencies in Europe and North America. The use of DNA nucleases will now pave the way to precision breeding concepts and will thus be beneficial for a sustainable livestock production.

Keywords:DNA nucleases, precision breeding concepts, gene editing, sustainable agricultural production.


Title: Genome Editing in Animal System to Support Sustainable Farming and Pest Control

Authors: Gerhart U. Ryffel

Institute of Cell Biology (Cancer Research), Universitätsklinikum Essen, Hufelandstraße 55, 45147 Essen, Germany

*Corresponding author:[email protected]


Genome editing is a novel approach to modify the genetic background and considered to be a precise approach to alter the genome of living organisms. By mimicking natural mutations its use may not cross species barriers and thus may be of less concern to alter the ecosystem. While in plants many successful approaches have been achieved and have started to enter the market, genome editing in animal system is not yet applied on a broad scale and no commercial commitment is made so far. The Special Issue of Sustainability on Genome Editing in Animal System, from insects to mammals, explores the potential but also concerns of genome editing in animal system. My perspective discusses the various contributions and tries to make general conclusions.


Title: Does the end justify the means: Gene editing for welfare and production traits

Authors: Maria Cristina Yunes1, Zimbabwe Osório Santos1, Marina A.G. von Keyserlingk2, Maria José Hötzel1*

1 Laboratório de Etologia Aplicada e Bem-Estar Animal, Departamento de Zootecnia e Desenvolvimento Rural, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianópolis,  88034-001, Brazil

2Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, V6T 1Z4, Canada

*Corresponding author: [email protected]


Promoting agricultural systems that incorporate the public’s concerns regarding farm animal welfare and environmental impacts is key to developing socially sustainable systems. Incorporating technology into agricultural systems has also gained considerable traction over the last decades. Gene edition is one tool that has received attention given its capacity to improve farm animal health, welfare, and production efficiency. This study aimed to explore the attitudes of Brazilian citizens regarding the use of gene edition technologies in cattle to generate offspring without horns, more resistant to heat or more muscle tissue. Using a mixed-methods approach we surveyed participants with an online questionnaire containing both closed and open questions (Study 1) and face-to-face in-depth interviews (Study 2). Attitudes regarding gene edition of cattle were related to the intended goal, with few participants objecting to gene editing per se, but support did decline when the application was perceived to be profit motivated or to harm animal welfare. For example, the majority of participants considered gene edition to increase meat production not acceptable, but almost half of the participants were supportive of gene editing when used to achieve hornlessness or to reduce heat stress. In the later cases participants discussed the advantage of the gene edition technology as a way of avoiding the pain associated with surgical removal of the horn or the negative effects associated with heat stress. Participants who expressed more negative attitudes towards using gene edition did so in response to concerns associated with increased meat production and the potential negative impacts this could have on animal welfare.  Participants did not consider gene edition a “natural” process, citing reasons such as the high degree of human interference and the acceleration of natural processes. Although only a few participants outright rejected this technology those that did frequently cited naturalness as a reason to justify rejection. Perceptions associated with perceived risks to the public, farmers, the animals and the environment were the main issues behind uncertainty or rejection of gene edition of farm animals. 


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