Animal Farm: USFDA approves GM pigs for medical and dietary use, but should have been more transparent with the research findings

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December 22, 2020 6:00 AM

While the FDA has opened the doors for larger farm animals to be genetically modified, doing so without putting the research backing the safety of such technology in the public domain ends up fuelling people’s distrust of the system.

The GM pig is expected to find use both in medicine—pigs are a reservoir for certain organs for xeno-transplants—and diets.The GM pig is expected to find use both in medicine—pigs are a reservoir for certain organs for xeno-transplants—and diets.

The US FDA leads other regulators in approving GM animals for consumption as food—it approved GM salmon in 2015, and the first batch will hit the market soon, and now has approved GM pigs. Alpha-gel, a sugar that causes allergic reactions in people, has been eliminated in the GM pig. The GM pig is expected to find use both in medicine—pigs are a reservoir for certain organs for xeno-transplants—and diets. But, the US FDA’s approval method may not be fully kosher.

An article in The Guardian highlights that the FDA has not released any data in public as to the efficacy and safety of the GM variant. In fact, the US Centre for Food Safety highlights that the meat has not been tested on people with allergies before being given clearance. While the FDA has opened the doors for larger farm animals to be genetically modified, doing so without putting the research backing the safety of such technology in the public domain ends up fuelling people’s distrust of the system. The narrative then is often hijacked by non-scientific criticism of GM technology as a whole. Any government moving to approve GM products for its population would need to first make sure that an act of omission doesn’t cause irrational claims to take root. More important, in the interest of scientific consensus, such research needs to be shared with other countries as well so that different authorities can test it and check for reproducibility.

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