(RightWing.org) – Whether one believes that God created all life on earth or that everything evolved from a single last universal common ancestor beginning several billion years ago, one thing is undeniable; plants, animals, and humans share quite a bit of their DNA sequences. This is why there is a debate circling around gene editing (a.k.a. genome editing) of the products in the human food supply. The FDA has now advanced the research on the subject.
On May 1, Washington State University announced that it had become what seems to be the first college program to receive “U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] authorization to have gene-edited pigs [enter] the food chain for human consumption.” However, the details of the approval cannot be found on the FDA website, but it appears to be applicable only to the animals used in the school’s research.
Researchers used the CRISPR gene editing method, which allowed them to delete the gene responsible for producing sperm in male pigs and then replace it using stem cells so that another pig’s “desired traits [can] be passed on to the next generation.” They hope to create a breed of livestock that will produce higher-quality meat and be able to thrive “in the face of changing environmental conditions.” Given the issues of food scarcity, especially in developing countries, this is not just an incidental concern.
However, they were not the first to get their little piggies to market (or a butcher shop) because, in 2020, the FDA “approved a first-of-its-kind intentional genomic alteration (IGA) in a line of domestic pigs” that were developed to prevent a potentially severe allergic reaction. Recent research showed that animals bitten by the lone star tick could become extremely dangerous to people who had never had issues eating meat before, and it seems to be a growing problem.
However, not all experts agree that tinkering with the DNA of plants and animals that will be consumed by humans is necessarily as benign of a process as proponents would have everyone believe. Some arguments, especially about food crops already in use worldwide, include a risk to biodiversity and organic food production should the engineered plants “outcompete natural species” or produce unforeseen problems.
There is some historical validation for these issues, particularly on the impact genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have allegedly had on pollinator insects. In an article published in the Cornell (University) Chronicle on April 19, 1999, researchers at the school discovered that altering the genetic makeup of corn to produce a toxin to protect it from damaging pests had the unintended consequence of killing off monarch butterfly larvae.
An article published on the webpage of the United Nations Environment Programme begins with the unequivocal statement that “bees are a part of the biodiversity on which we all depend for our survival,” so, yeah, they’re kind of important. This is what makes a 2021 report out of Ontario, Canada, so frightening.
Soon after a crop of GMO corn was planted near Elmwood in the province, a local beekeeper reported that an estimated 37 million of the insects he was tending suddenly dropped dead. Whether this was from the plants themselves or the insecticides used on them is unclear. Still, if the UN is right about how vital honey bees are to humanity’s survival, then it becomes imperative that researchers find a fix. It also means that any gene editing needs to be well-researched before it produces food for human consumption on a large scale.
Copyright 2023, RightWing.org