The Pig With Earth-Friendly Poop

With livestock farmers on both sides of the family, I thought all manure was eco-friendly up to a point. But domesticated pigs have excess phosphorus in both their urine and feces, which does awful things to the water supply and organisms living in the water. Now researchers in Canada have developed a genetically-altered "Enviropig" that produces plenty of the enzyme a pig needs to process phosphorus.
To fix this problem, the scientists tinkered with the swine’s genes to make the pig produce its own phytase in its salivary glands. When the cereal grains are consumed, they mix with the phytase in the saliva, and throughout the pig’s digestive tract the enzyme works to break down the phosphorous in the food. With more phosphorus retained within the body, the amount excreted in waste is reduced by almost 65 percent, say researchers.

The researchers who created the Enviropig say it’s not just eco-friendly, but it also cut farmers’ feed-supplement costs. If the pigs eventually become common, they could also help U.S. farmers comply with “zero discharge” rules that forbid pork producers from releasing nitrogen or phosphorus runoff.

The pigs are now being raised on test farms, and won't be available to consumers anywhere for a few years. Link

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This was half the reason I became a vegetarian. While I think it's great, I think the issue of "we eat too much damn meat in this country" remains relevant. I also have weirdly mixed feelings about this specific kind of genetic tampering. Pigs excrete phosphorous for a reason, yes? I'm sure they've thought about that, which is why they're testing them first but for some reason I still feel weird about it.

Just want to point out before anyone freaks out over the vegetarian thing, I'm totally a-okay with eating meat. People are omnivores. I just don't get why it has to be in every meal. Throughout history and in most cultures, meat is kind of special. Eating so much of it has consequences for our health as a society.
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'Genetically altered' doesn't mean much. Even the simple act of breeding animals/plants specifically for desirable traits is altering them genetically. All dogs are genetically altered from wolves, etc. It doesn't mean we're making tomato-shark crossbreeds or nuclear pork.
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So, we are now going to be asked to tolerate eating genetically altered pork in an effort to help save the environment. Not sure how I feel about that.
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Hmmm... this excess phosphorus is retained in the body instead of being excreted. Where in the body is this stored? Is the excess phosphorus detrimental to the pig (which since it's going to be slaughered may not matter anyway) or is it detrimental to the poor slob who loves bacon? It would be nice to hear the answers to these questions to know if the folks tinkering with the genetics of the pig have thought about the ramifications of their work.
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