“Enhanced” Food Animals, Nutritionally and Otherwise

Genetic engineering increase the rate of growth of food animals. For example, company called AquaBounty has engineered salmon with a growth-hormone gene from another species of fish so that farm-raised salmon reach market size in half the normal time. The accelerated growth not only reduces production costs, but lowers the amount of feed that the fish consume and the waste they produce. However, genetically engineered salmon have escaped from fish farms and may pose ecological and genetic risks to native salmon populations.9

Genetic modification can also improve the nutritional characteristics of certain foods. In 1997, Rosie, the first transgenic cow, was engineered to produce milk enriched with a human protein called alpha-lactalbumin, making it more nutritionally balanced than natural cow’s milk and suitable for babies and elderly people with special nutritional or digestive needs.12 In theory, transgenic farm animals could produce low-cholesterol eggs, reduced-lactose milk, and low-fat meat. There are even proposals to genetically engineer cattle so that they produce omega-3 fatty acids, normally found only in fish, potentially making filet mignon as healthy as filet of sole.13

A transgenic hog called EnviroPig is under development by university researchers in Canada. This animal has an implanted phytase gene, enabling it to process the phosphorus in its waste more efficiently and reducing environmental pollution.14 Genetically engineering farm animals to reduce the risk of major infectious diseases, such as mastitis and mad cow disease, could also prove beneficial to those who breed and raise livestock.