by Christine Lepisto, Berlin
Canada has approved limited production of animals dubbed "enviropigs™," a genetically modified breed of pigs producing up to 65% less phosphorous in pig poo and urine. The pigs pass the genetic modification along to their young, as well. The very idea that a genetically modified animal rates the moniker "enviro-" points to the severity of the issue addressed by the science behind these pigs. Phosphorous is a fertilizer. Phosphorous in animal and human wastes runs off or discharges to surface waters, where it spurs large algal blooms. The algae use up the oxygen in the water, leaving behind a "dead zone," an area of lake, river, or ocean where nothing can live due to the hypoxic conditions.
How does the enviropig work (image in extended)? And does the dead zone problem justify permitting production of these "franken-pigs"?
The genetic modification used by scientists at the University of Guelph, Ontario involves an enzyme known as phytase. Phosphorous plays an essential role in the growth of bones, construction of DNA and RNA, and in regulating cell and organ processes. But most of the phosphorous in a grain-based diet are bound up as organic complexes which pigs cannot digest. Supplementing pig diets with phytase, itself produced from genetically modified fungi Aspergillus Niger, has been advocated as an environmental protection measure.... Read the full story on TreeHugger