"If you think like us…"—A Missive from Friends of the Earth

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"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.

More of the good shit

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.

NEXT: Why Rand Won't Be Ron, Part XVIII

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  1. “What do you get if you cross a pig with a mouse?”

    If you’re like me, you’re thinking “I don’t know, but I want to find out!”

    1. You get a very meek libertarian.

      1. Oh come now, you’re not even trying.

        1. Is he ever?

          1. Yes — *very* trying.

  2. Developing genetic engineering to the point where we can breed the meat without having to slaughter sentient animals seems like a worthy goal. Oh, but that’s wrong, too.

    1. How about we breed a cow that wants to be eaten?

      1. That sounds appropriate on Towel Day, somehow.

        1. Im a cool frood.

    2. That isn’t really genetic engineering, necessarily. As I understand it, the problems are in getting the meat to grow properly and with the correct texture, not some flaw in the genes.

      Besides, I wouldn’t cast those aspersions too widely — I think PETA has a sort of X prize for someone that can commercialize vat meat.

    3. Developing genetic engineering to the point where we can breed the meat without having to slaughter sentient animals seems like a worthy goal. Oh, but that’s wrong, too.

      What exactly makes it a worthy goal, anyway? What about the millions of ‘sentient’ animals ‘slaughtered’ every day and night around the globe by other (non-human) ‘sentient’ animals? Going to need a bigger vat!!

  3. Okay, we have no idea if this food will kill me or not but it will save me a few bucks?

    Sign me up!

    1. Dumb Gaia-Worshipper

      Okay, we have no idea if this will hurt any living thing, but we know it will reduce pollution, so let’s ban it!

    2. Why would this food kill me?

      1. Yeah, why would somebody sell a product that would hurt its customers?

        1. Um, tobacco is still legal under Leviathan.

        2. How many accidents will this contraption cause?

          1. This electricity sounds dangerous! I demand that the government ban it until we know for sure!

            1. This cotton gin sho’ will make my job easier. Dem white folks aint’s gonna have a need fo’ my toil soon…..

              1. You do realize that the cotton gin made cotton a much more profitable crop to the point that it paid one to obtain slaves to plant and pick it? It was a huge impetus to the growth of plantations in this country.

        3. But what, if anything, is the rationale behind this being unsafe? What is supposed to be unsafe about this pork? Anything? Or is it, “we just don’t know for sure”, which you could say about anything?

    3. Re: Dumb Libertarian,

      Okay, we have no idea if this food will kill me or not but it will save me a few bucks?

      Sign me up!

      You need mommy to tell you what is good to eat, little baby?

    4. Yes, they are going to start marketing the meat before they have nay idea whether it is safe to eat or not. That is what is going to happen. There will not be any testing of the meat for toxins and no one else will try it before it is released to the commercial market.
      What the fuck is your problem? Do you really think that no one should consume any newly developed drugs, food, etc. ever?

    5. You can eat pigs. You can eat mice. What’s the problem?

    6. In what way would the genetics of this pig become dangerous or toxic? Why would it be undetectable in advance of bringing it to market? You do realize that basically every pig has unique genetics from every other pig already, right? What other GE animals have become magically toxic to humans?

  4. Hoffman appears to be a Luddite, but then he goes and uses the intertubes to spread the Luddite Word. What’s up with that?

    1. A lack of ironic sensibility I’d say!

  5. I prefer Spider-Pig, thanks.

  6. Damnit, Organic Girl is too busy to post today.

    1. On Monkey Tuesday, she’s Orgasmic Girl and has other things to do.

  7. Still waiting patiently for Cornish cows to come to my dinner table. If genetic engineering holds any promise I can believe in, that is it.

    1. CORNISH COWS!!??

      /drooling

    2. I think you will have to go to Cornwall for that.
      Unless you are thinking cornish game hen, in which case, they already have it, it is called calf or veal.

      1. No, I was thinking about the size of actual Cornish hens. I want to take this whole urban farming thing up a notch or two.

  8. Bummer

    I thought EnviroPig(tm) was the new name for an environmentalist. Oh well

  9. Mmmmm, mouse bacon.

  10. But how do they TASTE???

    Personally, I’ve moved on to turkey bacon anyway (not nbad fried in olive oil), but for the sake of those not averse to saturated fats I felt the question needed to be asked.

    1. There is no such thing as turkey bacon. Bacon comes from a pig.

    2. Not bad fried in olive oil?

      That’s a ringing endorsement

  11. Also:

    Mouseypig, mouseypig, does whatever a mouseypig can

    Can he fly, no he can’t, he’s just a mouseypig

  12. “If you’re like us, you’re thinking: “What?!” It sounds outrageous”

    I guess I’m not like them. I think more like “Wow, wonder if this’ll pan out”. This fear of new and interesting things is baffling.

    1. If they were better at branding, they would have called it an “iPig”, and everyone would want one.

      1. That’s funny. iPig. Still laughing…

  13. ManBearPig!

    (Nice T-shirt ads, BTW.)

  14. I think these people are all scared shitless of disease and death, of the fact that tender Mother Nature may actually carelessly and coldheartedly snuff them someday in some nasty fashion.

    So they’ve all got Stockholm Syndrome, or battered child syndrom, and surmise if we only love Her enough, she’ll change.

    After all, the underlying fierce rage is quite apparent if you cross them or question their premises in any way.

    1. I love my children to death!

  15. Canadian researchers recently created a genetically engineered pig …

    Uh. Let’s not tell Radley.

    1. PUT DOWN YOUR WEAPON!

  16. But forget all that genetic engineering whoosa-fudge… If you want to combine a pig and a mouse just get them to make sweet love.

    1. I don’t think a mouse would make love to a pig.

      1. I don’t think my pig would wanna make love to that stupid mouse!

      2. Did you take a look at Elizabeth Taylor’s last four husbands?

  17. Sure they would, but you’re gonna have to get ’em in the mood.

    1. Well, how do we do that?

      1. Do what I do… get ’em good and drunk.

  18. This means that they excrete less phosphorus

    If that means pig shit will smell even slightly less eye-wateringly awful, I say go for it.

  19. Two words: human centipede

    1. Oh god I hate you for conjuring up that image that I’ve been trying so hard to suppress.

  20. The researchers are calling their new animal breed the “Enviropig?” because its manure contains smaller amounts of phosphorus than a natural hog’s.

    It’s sad that they think that the pigs we eat now are “natural” and not the product of centuries of selective breeding for desired traits.

    1. Centuries of selective breeding, none of which involved grafting parts of other organisms in to the digestive system of the bred animals…

      1. GE isn’t grafting.

        The mouse digestive tract digests the phosphates. Pig’s don’t. But pigs and mice are both mammals, and both omnivores. The modification makes the pigs digestive tract behave slightly more like a mouse’s.

        1. Right, but who knows what the effect of having a mouse’s metabolic power in a pig will do to its digestive system, fat composition, etc… I’m not saying it should be banned, I just personally apply the precautionary principle when it comes to things I put in my mouth

    2. its manure contains smaller amounts of phosphorus than a natural hog’s

      Wait, I thought we were nearing peak phosphorus and needed every molecule of it we could get a hold of.

  21. Eh, I’ve been reading a bunch about factory farming and the way that the feed animals get change their nutritional value, and I’d definitely put this on the list of things I’ll wait to try… but any blind neophiles among you are welcome to eat crazy super-meat as test subjects!

  22. I’m surprised no one’s threatened to retroactively enter that pig digestion diagram into Reason’s recent drawing contest.

  23. What do you get if you cross a pig with a mouse

    Bacon that squeaks?

  24. What do you get if you cross a pig with a mouse

    hot dogs that already have the cheese in them?

    1. [SNORT!]

  25. Ok, hopefully I am the first to pull the obvious joke:

    RON BAILEY IS JUST A SHILL FOR BIG PIG

    Also… come on… disclose something…. anything…. tell me you are Kosher….We needs it

  26. “What do you get if you cross a pig with a mouse?”

    Whatever you get, you better hope this gets its attention

  27. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t phosphorus a needed substance for farming and fairly non-renewable? Surely there’s a way to prevent the manure from running off into the water and using it as fertilizer, negating the necessity for low phosphorus pigs?

  28. They don’t care about the environment, they care about making people suffer. They want to keep food prices high and they can’t let the environment get better, they need the job security.

  29. “Nobody’s splicin’ nothin’ to Fluffy!”

    – Eric Cartman

  30. Hey, Eric Hoffman here from Friends of the Earth. I appreciate the post and discussion about our recent action alert asking the FDA to not approve the Enviropig? for human consumption. While we welcome dissent and discussion, I wanted to clear up a few facts that have been lost in the post.

    The concern with the Enviropig? is not the amount of phosphorus in it’s waste. It is that an expensive, untested technology is creating animals that do nothing to address the environmental degradation that is caused by factory farms (confined animal feeding operations – CAFOs). The point is not to change public perception about factory farms – they public is already concerned about industrial agriculture – it is that having too many pigs creating too much waste is a problem regardless of decreases in phosphorus levels. Just ask communities that have to live near CAFOs and their lagoons of animal waste. Ask those whose water was contaminated when these lagoons of waste leak and flood communities’ water sources. What this genetically engineered (GE) animal will do is allow more pigs to be crammed into factory farms, which will likely end up creating the same amount of phosphorus overall.

    A second point that the author ignored was our serious concerns for human health if people consume GE animals. We are beginning to see the terrible health effects of eating GE food (a recent study has shown that rats have had organ damage from eating three different varieties of GE corn – http://www.biolsci.org/v05p0706.htm#headingA11) We do not know the long-term health consequences of eating GE animals and the FDA has not done its homework to protect public health and the environment. We do not need the Enviropig? and the FDA should deny approval of this untested, unsafe technology that will only put profits in the pockets of agribusinesses while keeping healthy, affordable food off of people’s plates.

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