"What do you get if you cross a pig with a mouse?" is the headline of an email today from our pals over at Friends of the Earth. FOE's Eric Hoffman, who honchos their anti-biotechnology campaign, goes on to claim that I should be scared of genetically modified pigs:
Canadian researchers recently created a genetically engineered pig with genes from mice and E. Coli bacteria. The researchers are calling their new animal breed the "Enviropig™" because its manure contains smaller amounts of phosphorus than a natural hog's.
If you're like us, you're thinking: "What?!" It sounds outrageous, but it's true. What's worse is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering whether or not to let companies market the Enviropig™ for human consumption.
Enviropigs have been genetically enhanced so that they can digest phosphorus bound up in the plants they eat. This means that they excrete less phosphorus which, when it runs off into water bodies, can reduce oxygen levels by fertilizing algae blooms. Also, the pigs do not need expensive phosphorous supplements to help them grow.
FOE's main objection is that Enviropigs will reduce the environmental damage caused by hog wastes making allegedly unsustainable "factory" farms more acceptable to the public. Hmmm. Randomly looking around the web for retail prices, I find that free range pork chops in Minnesota cost $7.75 per pound, while conventionally raised chops in North Carolina are going for $1.99 per pound. Unless consumers want to pay a lot more for pork, it looks like the Enviropig could be good deal for them and for the environment.