What is an Enviropig?
The Enviropig is a type of genetically altered pig created at the University of Guelph in Canada. Researchers at Guelph, led by Cecil Forsberg, inserted via microinjection the phosphorus-digesting enzyme phytase, sourced from E. Coli bacteria, which naturally occurs in pigs’ digestive systems. This alteration allows the Enviropig to digest phosphorous much more efficiently. The Enviropig’s urine and feces contains up to 65% less phosphorous than its non-altered counterpart.
Pig poop? Really?
Yes, really. Pigs need phosphorous, just like all animals, in order to form bones, teeth, and things like that. Pigs mostly eat corn and cereal grains, which do contain phosphorous, but it can’t be digested by pigs without phytase, which un-modified pigs lack. Farmers usually feed pigs dietary supplements which contain phytase, but that costs a lot of money. However, this ingested phytase is not as good at breaking down phosphorous as the inherently created phytase in Enviropigs. All the extra phosphorous ends up leaving the pig via its feces – and from there, makes it to the water supply.
Phosphorous is a significant pollutant that leads to algal blooms which deplete the water’s oxygen supply. This creates “dead zones” in lakes, rivers, and oceans in which all of the animal and plant life are killed off. Animal feces has been linked to these dead zones.
How do Enviropigs help?
Because Enviropigs’ feces contains up to 65% less phosphorous, much less phosphorous makes its way into the water system, and therefore, the water ways are less polluted. In addition, no energy would be wasted creating dietary supplements to give pigs phytase because the pigs would make it themselves.
Do Enviropigs have a future?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it. The project recently had its funding cut. The biggest hurdle is potential public disapproval. Paul Slomp of the National Farmers Union said, "The GM pig was going to drive consumers away from eating pork if it was ever approved for market."
The genetic material has been stored cryogenically and, if another company decided to fund the Enviropig, could still be used for research.
What do you think?
Enviropigs solve a simple environmental problem with a relatively simple solution that is both cost-efficient and good for the environment. This isn’t Frankenpig we’re talking about here. Ask Ontario Pork to re-instate Enviropig's funding!
Picture credit: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/projects/genome/guide/img/k7974-18_pig_usda_2.jpg
SUBJECT: Enviropig Funding Cut
We, interested citizens of the world, support the Enviropig. We wish for research to continue on this ground breaking project. You think the research has gone as far as it can - but we do not. We understand that you are concerned about the public reception of the Enviropig, but we are assuring you that many people not only accept the Enviropig but highly encourage it. Please, consider re-instating the funding for the Enviropig.