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FDA Approves Genetically Altered Pigs Meant To Prevent Meat Allergies From Triggering

Photo: Shutterstock

The FDA has given the green light to the usage of “GalSafe” pigs, a genetically engineered variety that is designed to prevent meat allergies from getting triggered when consuming pork.

GalSafe pigs were developed by biomedical firm Revivicor, who received the first-ever joint approval for their pigs in both food and medical uses. This means that in the future, we could see these pigs both being consumed and used in place of standard pork cells in current medical treatments.

Red meat allergies can be triggered by contracting “Alpha-gal Syndrome,” which is a condition that causes us to react to a specific sugar called “Alpha-gal” that is common in many mammals (excluding humans). These allergic reactions can range from mild to severe.

Alpha-gal Syndrome is believed to be transmitted via the bite of the Lone Star tick, but more research needs to be done to determine the role that the ticks play there.

Photo: Shutterstock

These GalSafe pigs have been genetically engineered to have the Alpha-gal sugar removed, preventing those with Alpha-gal Syndrome from getting an allergic reaction when eating meat from these specific animals. They would also not get these allergic reactions from any medicines developed with cells from these specific pigs.

Revivicor’s safety studies focused on the potential for allergic reactions to occur in medicinal uses of the GalSafe pig cells. The FDA also reviewed the safety of consuming pork from these pigs, and determined they would also be safe to eat, finding that the Alpha-gal sugar was removed across multiple generations of pigs. However, safety of eating was not evaluated for those with Alpha-gal syndrome, meaning that more research needs to be done there before confirming that those with meat allergies can eat the pork with full confidence.

For those concerned about any potential danger of eating genetically engineered foods, it should be noted that there is a global consensus from scientists that such foods are safe to eat.

The FDA also found that the pigs were no more environmentally harmful or at risk of a food safety outbreak than standard pigs. GalSafe pigs have more stringent living conditions than standard pigs, so if anything, they might be getting slightly better care.

While GalSafe pigs have been approved to eat, it may take a while before pork products from these pigs start becoming available for sale. These are just the second-ever genetically engineered animal approved for eating, after AquAdvantage salmon, a product still not available for purchase yet.

When it is available, however, Revivicor has indicated that they intend to sell it by mail order, not through grocery stores.

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Pro-GMO Chocolate Brand Launches FREE First Batch To Educate Consumers On GMO Foods

GMO (genetically modified) foods get a lot of bad rap in today’s society. Despite a breadth of scientific knowledge debunking claims to the contrary, many feel that they are unsafe and unhealthy.

To be fair, GMO foods also get their reputation from companies like Monsanto that have used them for unethical reasons. However, there’s plenty of good that GMO foods can bring to the world, and a new chocolate brand is hoping to educate consumers about that side of the story.

Photo courtesy of Ethos Chocolate

Called Ethos Chocolate, this brand was developed by pro-GMO farmer coalition A Fresh Look to help showcase how GMO foods have already been a benefit to society. Their four introductory brands each involve a key crop whose future has been altered or saved through genetic engineering.

Examples include “The Survivor,” which features papaya, a fruit that was all but wiped out in Hawaii after a ring spot virus spread across the archipelago. Genetic engineering variants resistant to the virus was key in restoring the crop back to sustainable levels.

There’s also “The Hero,” which utilizes oranges, a crop facing a similar issue today from citrus greening disease. Scientists are working hard to develop an orange that inherently prevents citrus greening from ever taking hold. Apples, which have undergone both natural and genetic modification to prevent browning, also take a major role in “The Trendsetter” bar that Ethos is selling.

One of the big reasons why this product line was developed was because of the issues surrounding chocolate itself. Studies have predicted that climate change and pests could significantly reduce the available land for cacao trees (the source of chocolate) within the next few decades. While not an actual extinction threat, it does put stress on a burgeoning demand for chocolate around the world, and scientists are working on using CRISPR (a gene-editing technique) to help combat against potential viral and fungal diseases as well as climate change.

It’s definitely going to be difficult for Ethos to get started as a brand, since most consumers are against anything to do with GMO Foods. To help, the chocolatiers are giving out their first limited batch of product for free as a Valentine’s Day gift. If you fill out a form on the Ethos website by February 10th (or before supplies run out), a special box of the chocolates will be sent to whoever you want (including yourself) this Valentine’s Day.