The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) just gave the OK for genetically-modified pig sausages to enter the food supply. Gene-hacked hot dogs for all!
The pork sausage in question was created out of meat from two-year-old pigs that were genetically modified at Washington State University (WSU). The team behind the project was led by Jon Oatley, a professor in the School of Molecular Biosciences in Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine who uses CRISPR tech to improve meat quality as well as the health and resilience of livestock.
"It's important for a university to set the precedent by working with federal regulators to get these animals introduced into the food supply," Oatley said in a statement. "If we don't go through that process, all of the research we're doing is for naught because it will never make it out into the public."
Though the FDA approval is still investigational — and some genetically-altered animal products, pig products included, have been FDA-approved for a few years now — adding a gene-hacked sausage to the mix is still an exciting step forward for the world of genetically-modified foods.
The gene-hacked sausages, per the press release, were first processed at the WSU meat lab. They were then inspected by the US Department of Agriculture, just as all other meats are inspected.
According to the researchers, the pigs were originally modified to be "surrogate sires," a technique that enables scientists to use these surrogates to "sire offspring with traits from another male pig." The surrogate is genetically modified to be sterile, and is then implanted with more desirable stem cells taken from another male. With these stem cells, the surrogate sire is then hopefully able to create sperm that has the desirable genetic traits of the donor pig.
In other words, in many ways, it's a technological upgrade to the ancient process of selective breeding. And Oatley, for his part, says he's hoping that his gene-hacked pigs — and of course, the sausage that we make from them — will change our food systems for the better.
"The original intent in making these animals was to try to improve the way that we feed people," Oatley said in his statement. "And we can't do that unless we can work with the FDA system to get these animals actually into the food chain."
And while there's certainly some public distrust towards genetically-modified foods — Bloomberg illustrated those anxieties just a few months ago — Oatley is hoping that his place as an academic will help to dispel some of the misinformation surrounding genetically-modified meat, which has yet to present any cause for concern, and thus help to amass more public trust.
"There's a trust that comes with university-based research," said Oately. "We just want to make sure the research is valid, and the animals we produce are healthy."
More on gene-hacked pig meat: FDA Approves Gene-Hacked Pigs for Human Consumption
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