Wednesday, April 4, 2012

This Little Piggie

Was dubbed the Enviropig by researchers at Ontario's University of Guelph.

From the University of Guelph website
 It was developed (when it's a genetically modified organism, can you really use the word "bred"?) in 1999 to deal with the problem of too much phosphorus in swine manure spread on fields. Phosphorus is linked to massive, river-choking, algal blooms, and run-off from manure-treated fields have been point sources for phosphorus.
Of course, this is only a problem when you have too much swine manure to spread--typically a problem with industrial scale hog rearing operations. These operations can house upwards of 500,000 hogs on one site. When the Enviropig (dubbed "Frankenswine" by detractors) was developed, one of the creators enthused that industrial hog operations would be able to support twice the hogs on the same footprint of land. Oh, and with no increase in phosphorus run-off.
This is typical of factory farming; Each problem caused by industrial farming practice has to have a technological solution that allows the same type of farming to continue. That the problem might be the raising of too damn many hogs on to small a space is never addressed.
That there are feed additives that can reduce swine manure phosphorus levels are also unacceptable as they would raise the cost per carcass (according to the Globe and Mail article) by ~$1.70Can. The money put into developing Enviropig, on the other hand, would be diffused over millions of hogs per year. But the public never came on board with eating GMO animals. Quoted in the Toronto Star,
Cecil Forsberg, an emeritus professor of molecular and cellular biology at the university who was in charge of the project, said he agreed with the decision.
When the first such pig was created in 1999, he said, “I had the feeling in seven or eight or nine years that transgenic animals probably would be acceptable. But I was wrong. It’s time to stop the program until the rest of the world catches up,” he said. “And it is going to catch up.”
 I'm not convinced that we will "catch up." I suspect that the violent swings of global climate change over the next 20 years will give us a lot more to worry about than how much pig we have to eat. The question is more "will we be able to acquire enough calories to maintain life?" Industrial farming may be at it's historical high-water mark.

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