Gene-edited pork sausages get FDA approval

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently granted approval for a group of five gene-edited pigs, created by researchers from the Washington State University (WSU), which were used to make German-style sausages fit for human consumption.    

Gene-editing techniques, such as CRISPR, allows for modifications to an organism's DNA that could naturally occur or be achieved through selective breeding in a significantly longer period of time.   

The WSU team used CRISPR to turn pigs into surrogate sires. The male pigs were made infertile by using CRISPR to remove a specific gene (NANOS2). Subsequently, the surrogate sires were implanted with stem cells from a different male pig, allowing the production of sperm with desired characteristics that could be inherited by the next generation. This technique is part of a complex selective breeding program aimed at creating livestock with higher quality meat that is more resistant to diseases and stress.

The pigs were processed at the WSU Meat Lab, and after passing USDA inspection, their meat was used to make sausages for catering purposes.    

The offspring of the surrogate sires, which are not gene-edited, have not yet been evaluated by the FDA for potential inclusion in the food supply chain.    

While the FDA's approval is strictly investigational and limited to these specific pigs, the researchers believe this demonstrates the viability of using gene-edited animals to rapidly produce desirable traits for enhanced food production, thus aiding in feeding the world's growing population.