The Current

GMO pigs' cautionary tale of genetically modified food research

Today we bring you a modified story of the three little pigs. From the enviropig and double-muscle pig, to pigs resistant to African swine fever. These aren't the little piggies of your childhood storybook. Should we be concerned? Or do we just not understand the science?
Genetically modified corn and canola are just a couple of examples of common GMOs. Now science is making strides toward genetically modified animals to add to our diet. (liz west, flickr cc)

Once upon a time, there were three little genetically modified pigs, each modified in its own special way...

For decades, genetically modified crops such as corn and canola have been a common -- if still controversial -- part of Canada's food system. 

Now, new advances in genetic modification are poised to make it possible to put genetically modified animals on our dinner plates as well. 

The enviropig looks and sounds just like a normal pig. But it is different, genetically. To create this pig, scientists have added an ecoli bacteria gene and mouse DNA to a normal pig embryo. (Thomas. Flickr cc)

To date, Health Canada has not approved any genetically modified animals for human consumption. But an American company looking to produce salmon genetically engineered to grow faster is seeking approval to sell its product. 

And in Britain, researchers are making great strides towards a pig genetically engineered to be resistant to African Swine Flu, a disease that routinely devastates pig populations across Europe. 

It's not the first attempt at genetically modified pork. The first little piggy didn't make it to the market. But it almost did. The goal of the enviropig was to to genetically engineer a pig to be more environmentally friendly by reducing the amount of phophorus it produces.   

  • Greg Jaffe is the Director of the Project on Biotechnology at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. He was in Washington, DC.
  • Jayson Lusk is an agricultural economist from the Oklahoma State University. He was in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  
  • Lucy Sharratt is the coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network in Ottawa.

Are you concerned about genetically-modified foods, or do you think some of the fear is misplaced?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Sonya Buyting.