Saturday, January 08, 2011, 7:42 AM
Scientists have genetically modified a Yorkshire pig, which will be the first of a new generation of 'Frankenswine' hogs that are designed to be cheaper and greener.
It tastes no different than the ordinary pig, but the GM superpig, nicknamed the Enviropig, contains less phosphorus in its manure and so poses less risk to rivers, streams and lakes.
However, GM critics have slammed the move, saying that the animals are 'anything but environmentally friendly' - and could lead to more intensive pig farms.
Pigs are fed phosphorus to help form strong bones, teeth and cell walls. Most farmers have to feed pigs an enzyme called phytase to make plant phosphorus digestible. But phytase supplements are not very good at breaking down phosphorus, so a large amount is flushed out of their bodies in waste.
To take care of this, researchers took a gene responsible for the creation of phytase from E.coli bacteria and added it to the genetic make-up of a Yorkshire pig.
They combined it with a gene taken from a mouse before inserting it into the Enviropig's DNA.
"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," the Daily Mail quoted Professor Rich Moccia, of the University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada, as telling the BBC.
Vicky Hird, of Friends of the Earth, said the name Enviropig 'was a huge irony'.
"Pigs reared in these intensive units can never be sustainable because they require so much soya which is grown by clearing forests which leads to more greenhouse gases being released," she said.
"And when it comes to GM food, consumers are voting with their feet. They won't accept it."