One of the latest innovations in biotechnology is coming right out of Ontario. Genetically engineered (GE) pigs are awaiting approval by Health Canada after a commercial application was made by the University of Guelph.
The University of Guelph received funding from Ontario’s government and Ontario Pork to create transgenic pigs or what they are calling “EnviropigTM”, which uses E-coli bacteria and mice gene sequences to create pigs that excrete less phosphorous in their feces. Excess phosphorous has become an increasing cost of large scale industrial hog farming, where tens of thousands of pigs are raised in one place and produce more phosphorous than the surrounding land can utilize. The result is polluted ground water and algae growth which can deprive fish and other organisms of oxygen and kill animals that consume the polluted waters.
Researchers at the University of Guelph have created the greenwashed “EnviropigTM” to create a techno-fix that doesn’t deal with the real problem of unsustainable factory farming. Instead of looking at the environmental, economic and social problems with our food system we are creating a band aid remedy that could have irreversible impacts on our environment and farming communities.
With the advent of “EnviropigTM” we are facing the commercialization of genetically engineered animals before there has been real democratic and public debate about genetic engineering in Canada; meanwhile, there is still no labeling of GE foods to give consumers a choice about what they eat. GE pigs provide few benefits to our struggling farmers but they do have the potential to destroy our domestic and global pork markets with concerns around the safety of consuming GE animals still unresolved.
GE pigs could be approved for the market at any time by Health Canada (the approval process is kept secret so we can’t tell you when exactly). Health Canada does not conduct any of its own safety tests, but instead relies on data submitted by the product developer, in this case the University of Guelph. In addition, there is still no mandatory labeling of GE foods in Canada so we won’t know if we’re eating genetically engineered pork or not.
However, it’s still not too late to stop GE pork. The Stop Enviropig™ campaign needs your help. A coalition of groups and public supporters rallied in Guelph yesterday to tell the University of Guelph to stop the commercialization of trademarked “Enviropig™”. Speeches from the National Farmers Union, Canadian Organic Growers and The Big Carrot were intertwined with vocal demands by the crowd to “keep GE pork off our forks.” All this while Members of Parliament simultaneously toured the biotech labs at undisclosed locations on the campus.
Check out photos from the rally!
Strengthen the campaign led by Canadian Biotechnology Action Network to STOP genetically engineered “Enviropig” by clicking here to send your message to Health Canada.
Check our more resource and information:
Stop Enviropig Campaign
Is “Enviropig” an Environmental Solution?
CBAN Enviropig Report
Natalie Caine is a volunteer organizer with Greenpeace and activist based in Toronto.