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USDA Launches $53 Million Cow Genome Project

A $53 million project to map the genetic makeup of cattle was launched Friday with the hope that it will boost human health by controlling animal disease.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (search) launched the multinational Bovine Genome Sequencing Project (search) that seeks to identify the functions of cattle genes.

The project "will lay the groundwork for breakthroughs that are still to come, which hold the promise of significant enhancements to both human health and agriculture," Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman said at a ceremony launching the project.

"This research yielded by the project will present a tremendous opportunity to farmers and industry to improve the control and treatment of animal diseases as well as to enhance food safety," she said.

Almost half the funding, $25 million, will come from the National Human Genome Research Institute (search), part of the National Institutes of Health. The USDA is contributing $11 million and the state of Texas $10 million. Additional funding will come from organizations in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The project will seek to document each of the 3 billion pairs of genes in cattle DNA. Scientists have said it could help producers breed cattle for tenderness and marbling and make animals more disease-resistant.

Research will be carried out by Baylor College of Medicine's Human Genome Sequencing Center in Houston, the University of Alberta, Canada, and Genome British Columbia, located at the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver, Canada.