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Current Affairs

FDA allows genetically modified pigs

Date: 20 December 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved an intentional genomic alteration (IGA) in domestic pigs referred to as GalSafe pigs. These pigs may be used for food and human therapeutics.

 

Background

This will be the first time that the regulator has approved an animal biotechnology product for both food and biomedical purposes.

 

Details

  • Intentional genomic alteration means making specific changes to the genome of the organism using modern molecular technologies that are popularly referred to as “genome editing” or “genetic engineering”. 

  • Such changes in the DNA sequence of an animal may be carried out for research purposes, to produce healthier meat for human consumption and to study disease resistance in animals among other reasons.

  • Essentially, an IGA is inserted into an animal to change or alter its structure and function and the FDA makes sure that the IGA contained in the animal is safe for the animal and safe for anyone who consumes a product or food derived from the animal. 

  • The only difference between an animal with an IGA and one without an IGA is that the IGA gives them a new trait or characteristic, such as faster growth or resistance to certain diseases.

Recent FDA approval

  • The FDA made the announcement this week and allowed IGA in GalSafe pigs to eliminate a type of sugar found in mammals called alpha-gal.

  • This sugar is present on the surface of pigs’ cells and when they are used for products such as medicines or food, the sugar makes some people with Alpha-gal Syndrome (AGS) more susceptible to developing mild to severe allergic reactions.

  • Since GalSafe pigs may potentially be used to produce human medical products, IGA will have to eventually free these products from detectable alpha-gal sugar.