ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

5 February 2003


the genetic engineer's garbage can: the U.S. food supply

"The agency [FDA] said it could not verify the researchers' claim because they failed to keep enough records..."


US biotech researchers careless with 386 pigs - FDA

Source - Reuters Commodities News (Eng)
Thursday, February 06, 2003  06:37

WASHINGTON, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Nearly 400 pigs used in U.S. bioengineering research may have entered the food supply because they were sold to a livestock dealer instead of being destroyed, the Food and Drug Administration said on Wednesday.

But the FDA said the pigs did not pose a public health risk.

Between April 2001 and January 2003, researchers at the University of Illinois in Urbana/Champaign released 386 pigs from biotech studies to a livestock dealer, the agency said.

Under the study requirements set by the FDA, the pigs should have been incinerated or sent to a rendering plant for disposal.

"The researchers claim that these pigs, which were the offspring of transgenic animals, did not inherit the inserted genetic material from their parents -- that is, they were not themselves transgenic," the FDA said in a statement.

The agency said it could not verify the researchers' claim because they failed to keep enough records to assess whether the baby pigs inherited the added genetic material.

The pigs were part of a study in which genes were engineered so that proteins would be produced primarily in the milk-producing glands of female pigs. The agency did not elaborate on the purpose of the experiment.

"None of the pigs sent to slaughter are believed to have been old enough to lactate," the FDA said. That means any meat or other products derived from the animal should not be harmful to humans it added.

The FDA did not identify the livestock dealer which took ownership of the research pigs.

The agency said it was continuing to investigate the incident in collaboration with the U.S. Agriculture Department.

The researchers' failure to destroy the pigs is a "serious violation" of FDA rules, the agency added.

Various U.S. researchers have been experimenting with genetic engineering of pigs to produce such things as proteins to treat human hemophilia and blood-clotting diseases. Other studies have focused on how to insert a gene that will produce leaner pork for consumption or more environmentally-friendly pig manure.

One year ago, several genetically altered pigs ended up in Canadian poultry feed. Researchers at the University of Guelph in southern Ontario discovered 11 dead piglets were mistakenly sent to a rendering plant and ground into poultry feed.

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