Scientists create 1st genetically modified pigs

Enviropigs` manure contains less phosphorus than normal slurry and poses less risk to nature.

Updated: Jan 05, 2011, 16:32 PM IST

London: In a world`s first, scientists claim to have created a new generation of genetically modified
pigs which they say are greener and fit for human consumption.

According to its creators, the Enviropigs look, sound
and taste like normal pigs, but are designed to be greener --
each contains genes from mice and E coli bacteria which have
been inserted into their DNA with absolute precision.

Those genes make a small but important difference
to the way these pigs process their food and so, their manure
contains less phosphorus than normal slurry and poses less
risk to rivers, streams and lakes, say the scientists.

Unlike normal pigs, Enviropigs have been designed to
produce their own phytase, say the creators.

In tests, the Enviropigs were able to absorb more
phosphorous from its feed. Their wastes contained less of the
potentially toxic substance and their meat also appears to be
identical to cuts from a traditional Yorkshire pig.

Professor Rich Moccia of the University of Guelph in
Canada, who led a team, is proud of what has been achieved.

"It`s the forefront of discovery in the scientific
community. It`s one of only two animals right now using this
kind of technology. It really is mind-boggling when you think
of it," the lead scientist told the `BBC`.

Prof Moccia added: "They are pretty friendly and
pretty gregarious. These pigs are almost identical to a normal
Yorkshire pig. They look normal, they grow normally and they
behave normally."

But critics of GM food said the animals are "anything
but environmentally friendly" and could lead to more intensive
pig farms.

Anti-GM campaigner Lucy Sharratt said the very notion
of transgenic animals is a nightmare. "This is an absolutely
critical time when North America is at the very centre of the
global conflict over genetically engineered animals - to break
open a whole new area of application of this technology, which
we had never imagined would be possible.

"I am very worried and I think people around the world
should be worried about what is happening in North America,"
she was quoted as saying.