And Now ... Frankenpigs!
August 14, 2001
Gazette's Introductory Note: Jim Hightower is former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture. For more on the pig manure problem, see B. Bea Sharper's perceptive animal manure exposť.
Ready or not, here comes the "March of Science" ... marching right over common sense, Mother Nature, and us.
The latest product of the mad science of biotechnology is a new critter that industry had dubbed: Enviropig. Though you might call it Frankenpig. The Boston Globe reports that big corporate hog producers working with Canadian scientists, have financed development of a genetically-altered porker that produces a more environmentally-friendly manure. Manure is a big barrier to the expansion of massive hog factories, because swine excrete excessively, the excretion is especially stinky, and this pig stuff contaminates rivers and our other water supplies, killing fish and causing health problems.
So, for years, the hog industrialists have sought a scientific fix, and now the biotech DNA manipulators have spliced the genes of mice and -- get this -- E.coli bacteria into pig genes. The result is a pig that they say can digest the polluting phosphorous that comes in its feed ration, rather than excreting the phosphorous, which then runs from these huge hog factories into area water supplies.
One of the white-smocked lab guys who did the hocus-pocus on the pig genes said, "We're hoping everyone will be pleased with this animal." Well, the industry is so pleased that it rushed out to trademark the Enviropig name, hoping everyone will be fooled into thinking everything is now hunky dory at the neighborhood hog factory.
But hold your herd of Frankenpigs right there. Most of us are neither fooled nor pleased. Phosphorous is hardly the only contaminant in pig runoff, there's still the stench and health threat of airborne contaminants, and there's the little matter of the longterm human health and environmental consequences of adding mouse and E. coli genes to pigs.
This is Jim Hightower saying ... The answer to pig pollution is not scientific quick-fixes, but sustainable agriculture based on small family farmers, rather than massive concentrations of animals in confined factory operations.
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