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Canada Ditches Genetically Engineered “Enviropig”

Canada Ditches Genetically Engineered “Enviropig”

A Canadian University that has been developing a genetically enhanced line of Yorkshire pigs for the past 17 years, recently announced that it would abandon the project for now. Trademarked as the “Enviropig,” researchers claimed that the swine would digest plant phosphorus more efficiently than conventional Yorkshire pigs, rendering its feces less toxic to the streams and rivers where it inevitably ends up.

Because phosphorus is the major nutrient enabling algal growth, it is the leading cause of fish kills resulting from anoxic conditions, and reduced water quality. But in order to achieve this environmentally-friendlier poop, the pig was engineered with genetic material from a mouse to reduce phosphorous in its feces (something that wouldn’t even be necessary if pigs were allowed to forage for roots, bulbs and tubers as nature intended, instead of being force fed grain and soybeans).

Unfortunately for Enviropig, the hog industry group Ontario Pork decided to stop funding the GM pig research at the University of Guelph. The university is now closing down its active research and ending its breeding program of GM pigs.

“It’s clear that consumers oppose GM animals so we’re relieved the project is being shelved. The GM pig was going to drive consumers away from eating pork if it was ever approved for market,” said Paul Slomp, Youth Vice-President of the National Farmers Union. “This GM pig fiasco could have permanently damaged our domestic and international pork markets.”

Cecil Forsberg, an emeritus professor of molecular and cellular biology at the university, and a co-inventor of the pig, said he agreed with the decision. When the first such pig was created in 1999, “I had the feeling in seven or eight or nine years that transgenic animals probably would be acceptable. But I was wrong,” Dr. Forsberg said.

As of today, no genetically engineered animals have been approved for use in the food supply, although plans for franken-salmon get closer to approval everyday. Despite multiple consumers opinion polls that say the public would prefer to know if a food is genetically modified or not, both the U.S. and Canadian governments refuse to implement mandatory labeling laws.

Related Reading:

3 Reasons Federal Scientists Fear Genetically Engineered Salmon

Undercover Investigation Shows Horrors Of Pork Industry

Humane Society Exposes Pig Abuse In Walmart Suppliers

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Image via University of Guelph

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104 comments

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10:18PM PDT on May 24, 2012

WOOT!! I'm beyond shocked & happy to hear this! Hoping other countries follow suit.

7:25PM PDT on May 22, 2012

Kill the project- save the pigs!

1:53PM PDT on Apr 15, 2012

continued...

3) "We wouldn't need this if we just stop eating meat." I.e. stop GMO's or food additives because it enables meat eating. Good luck with stopping the human species with that! We evolved into meat eaters. You might as well ask gazelles to stop running.

4) It's an advancement of technology, in of itself bad. This is why the term "Franken-" is used. Shelley's Frankenstein was nothing if not some sort of warning that Man should not delve into the realms of the gods, a theme oft repeated since Prometheus gave fire to us mortals. (Did you notice, we didn't give it back?) Being technology, it threatens, like all technology, to further remove us from that image of when people led simple wholesome lives on the farm using nothing more advanced than sickles and spinning wheels.

5) "It's an EVIL corporation. It's only being done for profit!" Sometimes this is presented as the main reason to stop it. This reasoning has a couple of problems. One, it is entirely possible to do things purely for profit and not be evil, so long as those things aren't themselves evil. If Merck comes up with a vaccine that prevents a cancer and save lives but announces it motives were purely for profit, but still followed all protocols, the vaccine, nonetheless, will still prevent that cancer and save lives. Two, Corporations aren't evil by default. Some become so, and a good case can be made against Monsanto and Bank of America, but others really aren't.

1:53PM PDT on Apr 15, 2012

I can't help but notice several undercurrents expressed here that don't seem to have much to do with GM in particular.

1) "It's unnatural !" As if the internet itself is. This ties in with 2) What is unnatural anyway? Some have defined it as whenever mankind (and nothing else) causes a deliberate chemical reaction. (Fire is chemical, but we weren't thinking chemical at the time, so it gets a pass) Under that definition, we can kiss anything invented beyond 1800 goodbye.

1a) Nothing can do better than nature. Plain hogwash. Nature has no intent nor plan nor no emotions such as caring. To posit otherwise is to invent a religion. Evolution is replete with so called designs that would've gotten real engineers fired if they came up with them. There are legitimate concerns when adding pesticide genes to crops as that can harm unintended victims and the intended ones simply evolve quickly around them. But to kill off golden rice that has only nutritional enhancements? That is a crime against mankind to tune of 5000 blind kids a year.

2) "Eeeeuw ! It's disgusting !" That means it must be bad ! No, it doesn't. Our emotional disgust response evolved to keep us from sticking pond slime or wormy carrion in our mouths, to prevent infections. It is a knee jerk reaction that is a poor indicator of what might actually be bad or do good. This is an argument that also comes up against vaccines, along with the religious sounding, "It's just not natural!"

3) "We

7:54AM PDT on Apr 14, 2012

This is why we need to pass GMO labeling laws. If overnight we see the label appear on NEARLY EVERYTHING in the grocery store, opinions on genetic modification might begin to change.

Now, I'm not saying that we should give companies free rein on altering our food. But the fact is most of what we eat has already been modified. If people had better understood their food BEFORE some of the more extreme examples started showing up, they might have been able to muster a better response than running for their torches and pitchforks the moment someone slapped the prefix "franken-" on a GM product.

Not everything created in a lab is automatically evil. And not everything done "naturally" is good. Take a look at over 90% of the poultry that we eat. Even without the drugs and hormones, the poor things are freakishly huge and so badly proportioned that they can barely get around, let alone surviving in the wild. Those "frankenchickens" and "frankenturkeys" are far better fits for the label than any pig or fish I've read about.

Bottom line, the kind of visceral, panicked reaction GMO companies are getting is not going to help. They prefer to respond to that with lawsuits (Vermont) and by finding ways to sneak around any rules we set for them. Only educated consumers can establish the proper dialogue that will prompt them to make meaningful and lasting changes.

10:58PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

Thank You Canada! Now MAYBE the US will Wake Up! I've lived in this country too many years to hold my breath waiting for that though.

10:57PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

Thank You Canada! Now MAYBE the US will Wake Up! I've lived in this country too many years to hold my breath waiting for that though.

7:41AM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

check out my

Food for Thought---and Action

www.brook.com/food

6:29AM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

It is not healthy to eat anything genetically modified. Rather then modify the animal, maybe the research dollars could be better spent in solving the problem with the feces another way.

6:27AM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

I think it's awful to feed people anything genetically modified. It makes it unnatural, and if the piggy's are destroying the water supply, then research should go into how to fix that...maybe decide how far the farms should be from a water source, or some other way to naturally deal with the issue, rather then modify the animal itself! Glad its been scrapped.

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