How do you make a pig more environmentally palatable? Researchers in Canada have decided to start with the nastiest stuff and work their way up. Enviropig, approved for limited production in Canada, is a genetically modified swine whose urine and feces contain 65 percent less phosphorous than a normal pig, a genomic tweak that could pay both environmental and financial dividends.
Phosphorous is a necessary element in living things, facilitating a smattering of cellular functions. But it's also an environmental hazard, especially when it escapes into the water supply, where it can cause algal blooms that deplete oxygen levels in lakes, rivers and ocean deltas. That danger has led to strict legal regulations on the handling of animal waste that can be costly for pork producers.
Pigs get plenty of their necessary phosphorous from their daily intake of grains, but much of the phosphorous contained in pig feed is indigestible. To remedy this, farmers supplement their slop with the enzyme phytase that helps the pigs break down the excess phosphorous.
But the ingested enzyme isn't as effective as phytase produced naturally in pigs, so scientists mucked about with the swine's genes to make them produce their own phytase in salivary glands. Now when the pig consumes its daily grain, the phytase mixes with the phosphorous from the point of ingestion all the way through the digestive tract, breaking it down as the pig digests. The result: a 65 percent reduction in excreted phosphorous as more of the element is retained in the body.
To those whose stomachs turn at the idea of genetically modified foodstuffs, fear not; this little piggy won't be going to market anytime soon. Enviropigs will spend years in controlled research settings before setting a single hoof into the larger gene pool. Years of safety trials await Enviropig before he'll ever end up on a plate, but if deemed safe he could cut farmers' feed supplement costs and help them meet those stringent rules that dictate exactly how they must get rid of their ample supply of phosphorous-rich pig poo.
Ok, this is just total BS. I agree with genetically enhancing animals to create more milk, meat, etc... but doing it to "save the planet" is retarded. They're ANIMALS. They can't help what they produce, just like we can't help but exhale CO2. Geez...
Believe me, it makes a LOT of sense if you happen to live near a pig farm or if you happen to know someone who operates one. Besides, if pig farmers can lower their production costs, it would most probably translate into slightly lower prices at the butcher shop, or at least a smaller increase or no increase at all for a period of time.
So, the next question. The phosphorous is retained in the pig. If the pig is consumed by a person, how does that affect us.
And even if the pig is not slaughtered for food based reasons. When the pig dies and decomposes the phosphorous will be re-released into the environment. Where do pigs go to die? Hopefully far away from the water supply.
@dontbother: The phosphorous is not staying in the pigs at all. This little genetic trick is allowing pigs to break down more phosphorous then before. What would happen before was that any excess phosphorous in a pig was then sent to the waste(through the urine and feces).
@pdashby: I don't believe this is about the typical "environment" movement. This is benefiting pig farmers if it goes through. It would allow cheaper production costs translating into A.More pigs or B.Cheaper product.
Whew...about time! I know the pigs are proud.
The ridiculous thing about this?
The article in the magazine states that the phosphorous is caused only because the animals are fed grain. The only reason they're fed grain is because its faster, cheaper, and brings them to market weight in about half the time, regardless of the fact that it is horrid for the animals who are designed to eat grass.
So instead of feeding the animals the food they're made to eat, we genetically engineer them so we can continue to raise them incorrectly (but conveniently for the humans?)
This makes no sense, and I think its stupid to re-engineer an animal instead of raising it correctly.