Chinese scientists have created “low-fat” pigs using a controversial new genetic engineering technique called CRISPR.
According to a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists created 12 healthy pigs with approximately 24 percent less body fat than normal pigs.
Despite the fact that the long-term effects of CRISPR genetic modification have not been explored, the scientists carried out the experiment in the hopes of offering pig farmers livestock that would be less expensive to raise and less affected by colder climates.
The animals were engineered to have less body fat and their genes were altered to allow body temperature control by editing a mouse version of the UCP1 gene into pig cells.Those cells were then used to create more than 2,500 cloned embryos. Scientists then implanted the embryos into 13 females. Three of the 13 female surrogates became pregnant, resulting in the birth of 12 male piglets.
“This is a big issue for the pig industry,” says Jianguo Zhao of the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, who led the research. “It’s pretty exciting. They could maintain their body temperature much better, which means that they could survive better in the cold weather.”
When questioned about the public’s desire to eat genetically modified pork, Zhao claims the genetic modification technique would not affect the taste of meat from the pigs.
“Since the pig breed we used in this study is famous for the meat quality, we assumed that the genetic modifications will not affect the taste of the meat,” he stated in an email.
The FDA has already approved genetically modified salmon, but will they approve GM pork?
“I very much doubt that this particular pig will ever be imported into the USA — one thing — and secondly, whether it would ever be allowed to enter the food chain,” says R. Michael Roberts, a professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Missouri and editor for the study.
In addition to genetically modified pigs and salmon, CRISPR has been used to develop potatoes, mushrooms, and an Arctic apple (an apple that has had the “browning” gene silenced).
The fact is that we have no idea how these GMO “foods” will impact the health of consumers. Will they cause organ damage, allergies, and cancer like GMO corn does? Will it decrease nutrition and lead to bacteria resistance as demonstrated in GMO soy? What will the impacts be on the environment?
What do you think…would you eat GMO bacon?