Animals and Insects

CRISPR bacon? University gets FDA approval to test gene-edited meat

Researchers at Washington State University received FDA approval to help establish a possible solution for future food supply needs.

Gene-edited pig sausage
Washington State University

Would you eat gene-edited pork sausage? Researchers at Washington State University have been given FDA approval for gene-edited pigs to enter the food chain for human consumption.

"I could tell no difference in what I would have expected in consuming the sausage off of an animal that is not genome edited," said Jon Oatley, a professor at the School of Molecular Biosciences at Washington State University.

So how exactly does this work? Scientists used a gene-editing tool called CRISPR.

"We can pinpoint a spot in DNA that we want to make a modification with a tool like CRISPR and then try to shape a trait or engineer a trait or enhance the trait," he said.

Oatley said this is more precise than selective breeding and allows them to drive a certain characteristic like disease resistance or efficiency in growth and production.

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"We've found no complications in the process," he said. "We're not negatively impacting the welfare or the health of the animal or their impact on the environment."

The FDA authorization is limited to a particular group of five gene-edited pigs, but part of the project was to figure out how to get desirable traits in a fast way to improve food production.

This technology, according to Oatley, can improve meat quality and the health and resilience of livestock.

Oatley said the goal is to help with food insecurity for future populations.

"Getting biotechnologies like genome editing into production systems, food animal production systems, to feed the world, to feed the future," he said.

The world population is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, according to a United Nations report.

Food demand could increase by 59% to 98% between 2005 and 2050, according to a study done in 2013.

"We can't just do that by producing more animals, the climate and the planet just won’t handle that, so we have to make animals more efficient," Oatley said.

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