CRISPR-edited pigs, coming to a plate near you.

Pork Chopped

In the future, the roasted pork shoulder or the slices of seasoned country ham you eat may well come from gene-hacked pigs.

At least that's what the scientists at animal genetics outfit Genus hope will come to fruition, New Scientist reports, as they work on perfecting CRISPR-edited pigs designed to withstand the disease porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), which has caused billions in losses for pig farmers.

"I think by and large the farmers are quite excited to have it, because this is a fairly devastating disease," Genus' Global Director of Regulatory and External Affairs Clint Nesbitt told the magazine.

Welfare Check

Genus is now awaiting for approval from the Food and Drug Administration, per New Scientist. If given the green light, the pigs would enter the history books as the first ever gene-edited domestic animal for mass meat consumption.

Once approved, Genus would be selling sperm from the gene-edited pigs that carry the modified genes. Subsequent breeding, it says, will yield porkers that will be totally immune to PRRS.

PRRS is a viral disease that harms the reproduction process and pigs' respiratory system. It first emerged in late 1980s and has impacted pigs all over the world except for Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland.

Farmers have tried to keep the disease in check with antibiotics, vaccines, isolating pigs, and cleaning and disinfecting pig breeding facilities. But industrial pig farms are often crowded and unhappy places that smell heavily of acrid feces, and hence they are breeding grounds for all sorts of diseases.

In the face of all that, genetics modification is a tempting solution. But animal welfare advocates say gene-edited farm animals will only cement the stranglehold that industrial farms have on the public and may even make the conditions worse for the animals.

"Keeping animals crowded together, and in stressful conditions, provides an ideal environment for pathogens to spread and evolve," anti-factory farm group Compassion in World Farming's research manager Catherine Jadav told New Scientist. "If PRRS-resistant pigs are used to perpetuate the current highly intensive model of pig farming, then other diseases will continue to develop – bringing disease after disease that ‘requires’ new gene-edited animals."

More on gene-edited pigs: Gene-hacked Pig Liver Successfully Filters Blood of Human Patient

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