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WIN! Enviropig loses its funding

The London Free Press reports, “This little genetically modified piggy will likely never be going to market. The future of Enviropig, the first attempt to genetically engineer a farm animal in Canada, has been thrown into doubt after Ontario pork farmers pulled their financial support for the multimillion-dollar project. …Ontario Pork was the biggest backer of the research. …With fewer pork farmers in Ontario the board decided to shift its dwindling research dollars to research on production and consumer preferences.”

“The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, a coalition of 18 groups that includes the Council of Canadians and Greenpeace Canada, is celebrating Ontario Pork’s decision to withdraw funding. ‘We think it is the responsible decision when clearly the genetically modified pig is not commercially viable, there is no corporate interest, and there is no consumer interest in eating a genetically modified pig,’ said Lucy Sharratt, co-ordinator of the network.”

In November 2010, the Globe and Mail reported, “Scientists created the first Enviropig in 1999 by combining genetic material from E. coli bacteria and a snippet of mouse DNA. The gene alteration allows the pig to produce phytase, an enzyme regular pigs lack, which helps it digest naturally occurring plant phosphorous in its feed more efficiently. Pigs need phosphorous to grow. So as researchers see it, the benefits of Enviropig are twofold: Farmers would no longer need to supplement pigs’ diets with mineral phosphate or commercially produced phytase, thus reducing feed costs, and they would decrease the amount of the nutrient that winds up in pigs’ waste – making it less polluting.” Reuters explains more simply, “The animal digests its feed more efficiently than naturally bred pigs, resulting in waste that may cause less environmental damage to lakes and rivers.”

In a March 2010 campaign blog we noted, “The pigs have been genetically engineered so that they produce manure that is 30-65 percent lower in phosphorous. Phosphorous is a major pollutant in the waterways and rural rivers of southern Ontario and Quebec. It is argued that these genetically-engineered pigs will reduce the pollution of groundwater by intensive livestock operations. There is no acknowledgement that the high-intensity, large-scale hog production of the ILOs is itself the problem. Cathy Holtslander of Saskatchewan-based Beyond Factory says, ‘The problem isn’t with the pigs. The problem of hog operations polluting the water has to do with the whole industrialization scale that has been developed to raise hogs.'”

The United States is Canada’s largest market for livestock. In 2009, more than 7 million live pigs were exported to the US for further rearing and then processing.

For a Food & Water Watch fact sheet on the ‘frankenswine’, go to http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/factsheet/enviropig-or-frankenswine/.