Gene-Altered Pig Project in Canada Is Halted
A Canadian project aimed at creating a genetically engineered pig whose manure would be less harmful to the environment is being halted after failure to find a company willing to bring the animal to market, according to the lead researcher.
The less polluting pig, called the “enviropig,” has a gene that allows it to better digest phosphorous in its food, therefore reducing the amount of phosphorous in the manure. Phosphorous can contribute to algal blooms and other environmental problems. Ontario Pork, an organization of hog farmers that had been financially supporting the project at the University of Guelph in Ontario, has decided to stop spending money on it.
Cecil Forsberg, an emeritus professor of molecular and cellular biology at the university who was 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.
“It’s time to stop the program until the rest of the world catches up,” he said. “And it is going to catch up.”
No genetically engineered animals have been approved for use in the food supply. But many consumers say in opinion polls that they would be wary of eating them.
The genetically altered pig was created using genetic material from a mouse and an E. coli bacterium to reduce phosphorus in the pig’s feces. The University of Guelph began the research in 1995 and sought food safety approval from regulatory authorities in Canada and the United States a few years ago. While Canada approved reproduction of the pig in February 2010, no government has approved it for human consumption and none of the pigs have been sold commercially.
The 16 pigs in the herd, some of them representing the 10th generation of transgenic animals, will be killed, Dr. Forsberg said. But frozen semen is being saved so that the herd could be recreated if a company was found that would be willing to market the pigs.