Scientists are bringing home the genetically-modified bacon.
Using the controversial gene-editing technology, CRISPR, scientists in China have created pigs that are thinner and leaner.
Jianguo Zhao of the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing worked with a team to create 12 healthy pigs with about 24% less body fat than normal pigs. They used CRISPR to target a special protein known for regulating body temperature by burning a fat protein called UCP1.
As anyone who loves bacon probably knows, it is high in fat, calories, sodium and nitrates. Low-fat pigs mean automatic low-fat bacon, but that wasn’t the original purpose.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said the experiment was meant to cut down on the UCP1 fat in order to make the pigs less susceptible to cold in winter, cutting costs for farmers.
“They could maintain their body temperature much better, which means that they could survive better in the cold weather,” Zhao said in an interview with NPR.
Zhao said he doubts the gene editing affects the taste of the meat, but R. Michael Roberts, a University of Missouri professor who edited the paper told NPR he didn’t think the Food and Drug Administration would approve the genetically modified pigs for sale. Genetically modified foods are still highly regulated and highly taboo.
“I very much doubt that this particular pig will ever be imported into the USA — one thing — and secondly, whether it would ever be allowed to enter the food chain,” he said.