Are Genetically Modified Pigs up Next for Approval by the FDA?

Are Genetically Modified Pigs up Next for Approval by the FDA?

The US Food and Drug Administration approved the nation’s first genetically modified animal in 2015 – GMO salmon – and scientists can’t wait to add more to the batch. Head of development biology at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, Professor Bruce Whitelaw has produced swine fever-resistant pigs through a new gene-editing technique. Yeah, he wants to see them also approved by the FDA. [1]

Whitelaw says that much more work is required to refine what he calls a ‘precise’ process.

“It’s a swap of sequence. It’s a .00000001 percent change, which is a tiny portion,” he adds. “The technology has allowed us to add in and create very precise breeding.”

Though these are the claims of many in the biotech industry, gene-editing and other ‘cutting-edge’ genetic modification techniques don’t always work out as they plan. With GM plants bred to resist pests in the field, the industry inadvertently (some argue purposefully) created super bugs, requiring more and more toxic chemicals to be sprayed.

When you consider how long our genes have developed under natural conditions, scientists are really amateurs, hacking away at the genome. Then there are the ethical considerations. One researcher has even proposed modifying the elephant genome to produce a cold-adapted replica of the long-extinct woolly mammoth. [2]

For now, CostCo, Safeway, Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and other retailers vow not to sell the recently-approved GM salmon to the public, but with more and more biotech creations, it seems we’ll not soon be safe from the consequences of biotech meddling.

The Non-GMO Project, a non-profit dedicated to educating consumers about GMOs, says the FDA’s approval of genetically modified salmon is “irresponsible and dangerous.” The same notion goes toward GM pigs.

“Genetically engineered plants are bad enough, but GM animals are alarming on a whole new level. Who wants to eat a genetically engineered fish for dinner? These salmon have been engineered to produce growth hormone such that they purportedly grow at twice the rate of real salmon—it’s just not appetizing,” Megan Westgate, Director at the Non-GMO Project said. [1]

If Professor Bruce Whitelaw has his way, GMO pigs could be available for human consumption within 5 years.