ditional phosphorus in order to meet their dietary needs.
So while a phytase supplement may be an added cost, pro-ducers using it don’t have to pay for additional phosphorusto meet the hogs’ nutritional needs, and in some cases thismay make them more protable.
Furthermore, there maybe a signicant cost difference between regular pigs andthe Enviropig. While the researchers behind Enviropigcontend that it may be more efcient than the phytasesupplement, even they acknowledge that any potentiallyincreased performance of Enviropig’s genes over a supple-ment must be considered within the context of the majorcost of developing a genetically engineered animal.
When Is Enviropig Coming?
Research on genetically engineering a pig that can producephytase began over 10 years ago.
Scientists rst geneti-cally engineered mice to secrete phytase in their saliva,and then used that gene to engineer pigs to do the same.
In February 2010, the University of Guelph cleared therst regulatory hurdle when it received approval from theCanadian Environmental Protection Agency to reproducethe animal in conned conditions.
The evaluation onlyconsidered whether the pig was actually toxic to the envi-ronment.
The university has identied both the UnitedStates and China as lucrative markets for Enviropig, and theresearchers have already submitted materials to the U.S.FDA and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for ap-proval to market the pig.
Problems with FDA’s ApprovalProcess
In order for Enviropig to be sold for food in the UnitedStates, it must rst be approved by the FDA. The FDA doesnot have regulations in place on how to approve geneti-cally engineered animals, but in 2009, the FDA issuedvoluntary, non-binding guidance for the industry.
Inthe guidance, the FDA stated that it is currently using theanimal drug approval process for approving genetically en-gineered animals.
This is awed for a number of reasons.The animal drug approval process is not transparent. De-spite the fact that the agency plans to hold public advisorycommittee meetings prior to approval,
there is still mini-mal room for public participation before the agency makesa decision on a proposal. More concerning is that the FDAwill be basing its conclusions on materials provided by theresearchers themselves.
In addition, FDA will not evalu-ate the claimed positive environmental impact of Enviropigor whether the genetic engineering simply duplicates afunction already available in a cheap feed supplement.FDA’s analysis of the animal’s “effectiveness” only consistsof determining whether the genetic modication is ex-pressed in the animal.
Consumers are increasingly aware of genetic manipulationin food animals and they don’t like what they see. A PewInitiative poll in 2006 found that 64 percent of adults are“uncomfortable” or “strongly uncomfortable” with animalcloning, and a 2005 poll found that only 27 percent of people surveyed supported the genetic modication of animals.
The sentiment was so strong that in 2008 theUSDA asked producers to voluntarily keep cloned animalsoff the market because of consumer concerns.
Evenif these products do come to market, consumers shouldhave the opportunity to make informed choices abouttheir food. A recent Consumers Union poll found that 95percent of consumers favor labeling meat and milk thatcomes from genetically engineered animals.
Yet despitethis overwhelming support, the FDA will not require label-ing food that comes from genetically modied animalslike Enviropig.
The problem with excess phosphorus in hog waste is theresult of too many animals being concentrated in too littlespace, not a problem of genetics. The approval of Envi-ropig will lead to more intense applications of manurethat can lead to harmful environmental effects. Instead of addressing actual environmental harms that CAFOs pose,scientists are spending years working on a genetic modi-cation to engineer a solution to a problem that simplywould not occur if hogs were not conned with too manyanimals and too little land.
What You Can Do
Tell FDA not to approve the Enviropig for use in the UnitedStates. Go to www.foodandwaterwatch.org to take actionor contact FDA directly at 1-888-463-6332