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Disease-Resistant Pigs Are Here. Why Aren’t We Eating Them?

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Preventing and treating porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, or PRRS, costs farmers an estimated $6 million a day in North America and Europe, so scientists created a PRRS-resistant pig.

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration cleared the last hurdle for the genetically engineered “AquaAdvantage” salmon—the first (and only) genetically modified animal to make it to grocery stores in North America. The fish grows twice as fast as its unmodified peers, and, after 20 years in regulatory limbo, it will soon be sold in the United States.

But biotechnology advocates are already looking forward to what could be next.

Developers hope the salmon can pave the way for the next generation of genetically modified animals—some of which have already been created, but have stalled under federal regulations. Scientists have designed pigs resistant to disease and cows without horns. But under current FDA rules, the American public would wait years to see (or eat) the results. What’s the hold up?

Science Versus Who?

At first glance, the debate over whether to green-light products like the “AquaAdvantage” salmon falls along typical lines: The companies and public-sector geneticists who created these animals believe they’re safe for consumption and would help, not harm, the environment by reducing waste and agriculture’s carbon footprint. Meanwhile, some politicians and federal regulators have slowed down the process, citing the agency’s high safety standards. (Even so, the FDA’s 2015 review found that “this fish is safe to eat, [and] the genetic construct added to the fish’s genome is safe for the animal.”)

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