GM Enviro-Pig Won’t Go To Market; On To Humanely Solving an Environmental Problem


Heather Callaghan
Activist Post

Last year, the media was buzzing about the possibility of Enviro-pig entering the American and Canadian food markets.

The way our regulatory agencies work is to keep pending approvals for genetically modified animals on file, in secret, until a decision determines if it’s suddenly in the stores unlabeled, or no, not yet.

Enviro-pig is a creation from Canada’s University of Guelph scientists and hog industry Ontario Pork. Birthed in 1999, with 10 generations since. The DNA of Yorkshire pigs were spliced with DNA from e.coli for phosphorous digestion and mice DNA to promote the e.coli gene. The pigs’ make-up was changed to allow the enzyme phytase in their saliva to cut the phosphorous in their manure by about 30 percent.

Enviro-pig could have gone to market for human consumption anytime. However, in a miraculous turn of events, Ontario Pork decided to cut research funding and close active research before the potential approval. The university cannot continue breeding the pigs without the funding.

“There’s no demand or need for genetically modifying food animals. The federal government should stop accepting requests to approve GM food animals,” said Lucy Sharratt of Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, a coalition of 18 groups that campaigned to prevent the GM food pigs from being approved for consumers. Also from CBAN’s press release:

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.

Dr. Cecil Forsberg, co-inventor of Enviro-pig agreed with Ontario Pork’s decision . . . for now. From NY Times, Forsberg says:

[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. It’s time to stop the program until the rest of the world catches up . . . and it is going to catch up.

Dr. Forsberg is retaining Enviro-pig semen on the chance “the world catches up with him” and a company is willing to take on the GM pigs in the future.

Mouse-pig or Franken-Swine could have been the very first GM animal for consumption — bacon just wouldn’t have been the same again; and, actually, it isn’t.

What About the Remaining Mess?

The highly phosphorous pig poo is a real environmental concern. The waste run-off from CAFOs bleeds into waterways and creates mega algae blooms that choke the water and kill marine life. That in turn can kill cattle and pets that drink out of the water.

It’s the Circle of Death – but the cycle is only beginning.

The supposed intention behind the ironically named Enviro-pig was the environment, but that’s a giant load of steaming hog manure — otherwise the pigs themselves would be given better treatment and diets (like cost-effective phytase supplements) to lower phosphorous waste.

For better animal treatment, environmental healing, and human health.

It would make more sense than spending millions to change over then entire ecological system. Ontario Pork producers have contributed more than $1 million to Enviro-pig research. Ontario’s provincial government also invested in Enviro-pig research which has cost over $5-million.

Monsanto, other biotech giants, and the Corn Refiners Association (the ones with those “HFCS is good for you” ads) also had everything to gain from this tidy little arrangement, and still do. This is another big problem with the typical factory farm complex versus blaming pigs for doing what pigs naturally do.

Pigs need phosphorous for bone, teeth, and cell formation but their typical Bt corn and soybean diets leave them with 80% of their phosphorous in an non-digestible form.

That and stuffing a thousand pigs into one facility is what caused the phosphorous mess.

That phosphorous manure is then heaped on the GM corn and soy as fertilizer, further increasing the indigestible phosphorous diet. The Circle of Death continues.

The answer to the environmental problem caused by GMOs is not more genetic modification!

CBAN suggested the following:

There are already many solutions to this problem including reducing the number of pigs raised in one place, changing feed ingredients, trucking liquid manure longer distances, dry composting manure, or expanding the area of land for spreading manure. Additionally, there is already the cost-effective, simple technological fix of a phytase supplement that can be added to hog feed.

Enviro-Pig Already Produced Bio-Hazards in Planning Stage

In 2002, a precedent for contamination was set when eleven GM piglets at the University were sent to a rendering plant and turned into animal feed (unapproved) instead of being destroyed as biological waste. They contaminated 675 tons of poultry feed that was sold to egg, turkey and chicken farmers in Ontario!

Former vice president of research at the University of Guelph said of the incident, “Things you don’t expect to happen can happen.”

Again in 2004, experimental GM pharma-pigs from the Quebec company TGN Biotech were accidentally[?] turned into chicken feed instead of being safely destroyed.

How Did Enviro-pig Almost Pass; What Changed?

Health Canada doesn’t conduct its own GM tests. They rely on United Nations Codex guidelines and refer to the FDA, also pointing to Codex. They were also taking the word of University of Guelph data. Canadian and US regulatory guidelines allowed for the approval of the GM animals at any time.
Pork producers were afraid to associate with Enviro-pig for fear of bad public relations. Enviro-pig is safely off the shelf thanks to concerned farmers and activists like you creating more awareness. Especially the tenacious efforts of CBAN. Gratefully so — we get around 40% of our pork from Canada. CBAN will now redouble their efforts of stopping GM super-growing salmon.

As we can see, the closed research was more a result of consumer reaction and activism than anything else. At the very least, Enviro-pig served to shed light on the problems with GM mega-farm conditions and a real environmental problem that still exists.

The media might bemoan the naysayers who tried to stop the “good guys” who already pumped millions into a misguided “solution” for the environment. Truthfully, the pigs, environment and farming markets are much safer with Enviro-pig’s timely exit.

With great hope, farmers will continue to alter the structure and move towards economical healthy feed and confinement changes. Otherwise, consumer sway will move to decentralize further and seek better treated pigs, leaving lots of poor farmers undeservedly holding the GMO feed bag.

Additional Sources:

Non GMO Heirloom Seed Bank
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