Feedlot Freaks

Plenty Magazine’s just published an excellent primer on transgenic animals—you know, animals with little bits of other animals in them. Among these scientific wonders are—seriously—the Enviropigs, modified hogs whose digestive systems expel phosphorus before it reaches their manure (and the surrounding environment). There’s also the Speedy Gonzales–like Atlantic salmon: With help from a gene from “the ocean pout, an eel-like fish,” these salmon grow twice as fast as normal salmon.

So you want to know if you’ll be accidentally eating these creatures, don’t you? Here’s the short answer: We dunno! The FDA hasn’t approved transgenic animals, but the agency is drafting rules for them, and a lot of corporations are betting on getting the go-ahead. Thus far the FDA has proposed regulating transgenic animals under the “new animal drug” provision of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. That means the FDA would evaluate them on a case-by-case basis. Problem is, an official at the Center for Food Safety says that’s what the FDA promised for cloned animals, too. Then it changed its mind: “The agency reviewed hundreds of scientific studies, and found meat and milk from cattle, swine, and goat clones to be as safe as that from normal animals. So cloned animals do not have to be approved on an individual basis.” We’ll be following this, so stay tuned.