Two New GE Pigs Want to Go To the Market

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By Heather Callaghan

Did you think the genetically modified pig was gone? It is true that Canada’s “Enviro Pig” was scrapped in 2012 after consumer backlash and lack of university funding. That vacancy mainly left genetically modified salmon in the running to become the very first commercial GM animal.

But there are two new types of engineered pigs poised for approval in their respective countries. Now, with the secret Trans Pacific Partnership out in the open, it becomes clear that the deal opens the door for a swarm of global biotech ventures that can more easily glide their wares across country boundaries.

Whereas Enviro Pig’s genetic splicing was supposedly intended to cut down on phosphorous waste that kills waterways, two more pigs are vying for public acceptance.

It’s important to note that these animals aren’t “transgenic” like many of the GE crops on the market. That is, they do not contain genes from other species or kingdoms like bacteria. Biotech involves more than GMOs, and some methods currently fall outside of regulation or definition. However, we are still talking genetic engineering.

CBC News reports on them:

  • Bruce Whitelaw and his colleagues at the University of Edinburgh are developing a pig resistant to African swine fever, a devastating disease with no vaccine or cure that has led to hundreds of pigs being slaughtered in Europe to prevent its spread.
  • Jinsu Kim and his colleagues at Seoul National University have developed “double-muscle” pigs that produce twice as much muscle as a regular pig, resulting in higher protein, lower fat pork.

In both cases, researchers have precisely targeted an individual pig gene to create a mutation that turns up or turns down certain genes. The African swine fever resistant pig has an immune gene that is slightly more like a warthog’s. The double-muscle pig has a mutation similar to one produced by normal breeding in a muscly cow breed called the Belgian blue.

Jayson Lusk, an agricultural economist at Oklahoma State University, acknowledges the potential impact that modifying animal traits could pose, but stated:

There are risks with these technologies, there are risks with every technology. There are also risks with not approving these technologies.

From CBC*:

…he acknowledged that surveys show that the public has a general aversion to genetic modification and is willing to pay more to avoid GMO products.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily a fear of genetic engineering — it’s a fear of uncertainty,” he said.

That aversion can be offset somewhat if people know why the animals are being modified, he added.

The reasons given for animal modification are a stretch and turn out to be untrue. For instance, “feeding the world” is provably false after nearly 20 years of genetically engineered crops that create more problems than they solve. “Less pesticides” is another one. The “double-muscle” pig is for industries, not consumers. Biotech wouldn’t be nearly so heated if it were transparent, actually regulated and not run by the same corporateers who have a vested interest in both the “success” and failure of the product on the market.

And, like the U.S. government, Health Canada doesn’t do its own regulatory testing of GE products, but relies on the data provided by the corporations.

About pig immunity…

Isn’t it interesting that researchers turn to the warthog for better pig immunity? Maybe this highlights the real problem not addressed by genetic engineering – that pigs should not be forced to withstand CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) – and maybe then, they wouldn’t be so sickly.

In fact, researchers who most likely realized that the issue of factory farming wasn’t going away anytime soon, decided to find another way to help pigs with inevitable infections.

They tested essential oils and botanical extracts like garlic, turmeric, oleoresin extracted from ginger, or capsicum oleoresin from pepper on pigs with dangerous E. coli and viral porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). E.coli bacterial resistance has been a problem stemming from the overuse of antibiotics – at least 70% of which go to livestock animals. The researchers were especially impressed with the use of turmeric.

What do you know? They witnessed a significant reduction of diarrhea, appetite/weight loss and viral load. The swine had more efficient digestion and were therefore able to naturally gain more weight.

But instead we are to believe that the only way to save the food supply is to forever alter the animal?

The stomach-churning problems of the food supply and animal treatment should be the focus of these modern issues and we should not be so quick to alter the ecology based on industry lines. Animals were here first, but large-scale factory farming is relatively new. Corporations can use calls of “science” (which they fund) all they want, but it doesn’t adequately deflect from the failure of industrial farming and its byproducts.

*A 24-minute podcast is available on the CBC news story if you’re interested in hearing more. 

This article (Two New GE Pigs Want to Go To the Market) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Heather Callaghan and Natural Blaze.com.

Heather Callaghan is an independent researcher, natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at NaturalBlaze.com. Like at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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