April 2, 2012, Press Conference, Ottawa, Parliament Hill,
We are pleased to be here today to share a major and decisive development in the story of the genetically modified pig called “Enviropig”.
The genetically modified pig is being shelved by the University of Guelph where the technology was developed, because the only industry financial sponsor of the GM pig has removed its funding.
The regional newspaper called the Ontario Farmer has reported that Ontario Pork, the industry group that funds Enviropig, announced at its recent Annual General Meeting that they will redirect their funding away from the GM pig to other research.
As a result, the university will not maintain its breeding herd of live GM pigs and is closing down its active research. According to this report, the university will be putting the Enviropig into what they describe as “genetic hibernation”.
Remaining research from the lead inventor of the GM pig will be published in peer reviewed journals, but active research is effectively finished.
This is an important development with international implications. Enviropig was a contender to be the first GM food animal approved in the world. It risked harming the pork industry due to consumer backlash here in Canada and in our international markets.
Our question now is – What will the University of Guelph do about its current submission for approval of Enviropig to Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration?
We know that the University does not have the funds nor the dedicated active scientific expertise to answer questions from regulatory agencies.
The University needs to withdraw its application to Health Canada.
The University of Guelph began research on the Enviropig in 1995.
The University patented the GM pig technology in Canada, the US and China but no companies showed any serious interest in licensing the technology.
The consumer controversy was growing and was set to hurt the market for pork and pork products.
The GM pig was engineered to excrete less phosphorous in its feces – the idea was to reduce polluting phosphorus from large factory farms. However there are many existing solutions to this problem of excess phosphorus. In particular, there is a technological fix which rendered the GM pig technology irrelevant. There is a simple and cost-effective technology of a hog feed supplement that achieves the same cut in phosphorous that was promised by the GM pig.
The GM pig was created by three scientists at the University of Guelph. The lead scientist is the only one of the three who remains at the University and he has been retired for three years – this is Professor Emeritus Cecil Forsberg who is publishing what remains of his research. He is reportedly ready to pass the project on to someone else.
It’s clear to us that the university does not have the funds nor the active scientific expertise to carry through with its application to Health Canada. It certainly does not have the public support.
We ask the University of Guelph to be clear about their intentions. This public institution needs to reassure hog farmers and Canadian consumers that the GM pig project is closed for good by withdrawing their request to Health Canada and to the FDA.
The federal government should refuse to consider any applications for approval of GM animals. Health Canada has already wasted precious public funds reviewing a GM pig that consumers and farmers do not want.
The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network remains alarmed that that a GM Atlantic salmon could be under review by Health Canada and Environment Canada. The regulatory departments will not tell Canadians if they are reviewing this GM fish for approval.
This extreme level of secrecy from our government on such a controversial issue is unacceptable.
GM animals are widely rejected by Canadians. Our government should reserve the talents of our scientific evaluators for useful and socially desirable technologies.