More Brave New Food: FDA Approves An “Innovative Animal Biotechnology Product”

This month the FDA approved the first “intentional genomic alteration” (IGA) in pigs. The “animal biotechnology product” is called a “GalSafe” pig. It is designed to eliminate a substance called “alpha-gal sugar” found on the surface of pigs’ cells that could cause people with Alpha-gal (AGS), syndrome to have allergic reactions to red meat. The recently identified condition of AGS usually begins with a tick bite that sensitizes someone to later allergic reactions to beef, pork, and lamb.

The modification was achieved by removing the gene for alpha-1,3-galactosyltransferase, which “attaches alpha-galactose sugars to cell surfaces,” reported Medpage Today.

In addition to addressing the decidedly preventable AGS and giving the green light for the developer, Revivicor, to sell GalSafe pig meat through the mail, the new “animal biotechnology products” could also be useful in medical products and xenotransplants says the FDA.

While skirting the issue of the scientific hubris behind genetic creation of new animals, the FDA assures the public that the effect of GalSafe pigs on the U.S. environment will be “no greater than from conventional pigs,” that the new IGA “products” will be kept away from “conventionally farmed pigs” and that the approval would not “promote the emergence or selection of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria.”

The AquAdvantage Salmon

Creation of transgenic, “Franken” animals is underreported by mainstream media but progressing rapidly. For example, a GMO fish, the AquAdvantage salmon was created by inserting the coding sequence from a Chinook salmon growth-hormone gene under the control of an “antifreeze protein promoter and terminator” from ocean pout into wild Atlantic salmon.

Though it has not reached dinner tables yet, the AquAdvantage salmon was approved by the FDA in 2015 despite these alarming facts in the briefing materials:

* a higher incidences of “jaw erosion” and “focal inflammation” (infection) was seen in the GMO salmon

* there was no way to determine if greater allergy risks existed because of the excessive culling of “abnormal” GMO salmon

* there was a possible “increase in the level of IGF-1,” insulin-like growth factor-1, in the GMO salmon

Other lab creations are also marching along but barely making the news. The genetically engineered Enviro-Pig is said to excrete 75 percent less phosphorus and use 33 percent less land than normal pigs–it’s green! Chickens have been turned into bio-factories with synthetic substances put into their eggs like interferon b-1a and miR24 to hopefully treat human diseases like melanoma or multiple sclerosis.

Clones and Chimeras

Cloned animals are now so ubiquitous that former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (who may well return to his post) said he didn’t know if they were in the U.S. food supply or not during a trade mission. “I don’t know. What I do know is that we know all the research, all of the review of this is suggested that this [eating clones] is safe,” he said.

Cloning is riddled with a reprogramming problem called epigenetic dysregulation in which newborns “often have abnormal or poorly developed lungs, hearts, or other affected internal organs (liver and kidney), which makes it difficult for them to breathe or maintain normal circulation and metabolism,” said a 2008 FDA cloning report. Survival often calls for “significant veterinary intervention.”

So many animals die to make one surviving clone, the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE) said it had “doubts as to whether cloning animals for food supply is ethically justified.”

Chimeras, an organism with two sets of DNA from two separate organisms, are also used in Brave New Food production. One experiment, for example, created poultry chimeras by injecting quail cells into eggs of chicken embryos of a similar age.

Goats have been genetically modified with a transplanted gene that produces milk with an extra protein that is then spun into “spider silk thread” said to be “among the strongest substances known to man.”

Animal factories

It is no surprise that the FDA would create an animal “product” to treat the “disease” of Alpha-gal (AGS). Like creating drugs for dairy intolerant people, there is money in keeping people deep in meat and dairy food. Turning animals into intentional genomic altered biotechnology products is the logical outgrowth of scientists’ love affair with GMOs and Big Meat’s contempt for animals.

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).