The acronym that keeps Europe awake at night is TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), a trade and investment deal that the EU is negotiating with the US. From Rome to Brussels consumer groups rise up against it. The reason? This deal could get never-seen-before genetically modified organisms on the supermarket shelves.
Although the trade and the human consumption of GMO animal products are outright banned, there are some bugs in the system, such as the recent "jellyfish-lamb" case. France went into a panic because a lamb that was the offspring of a sheep modified to express a green fluorescent protein made it to market. All over the world biologists are experimenting with animal genomes and the risk of bumping into a "bodybuilder pig" exists. To what extent is there the possibility of having genetically modified animals on our plates? Here an estimate by Wired.
Massachusetts-based company AquaBounty developed a GMO fast-growing salmon. These Atlantic salmon have genes from a Chinook salmon and an ocean pout -a type of eel- that make more than the usual dose of growth hormone, so they reach market size in 16 to 18 months instead of the salmon-standard three years.
The US Food and Drug Administration declared AquaBounty salmon safe to eat in 2010, and the company promised to breed only sterile female fish, that way they wouldn’t be able to spread their mutant genes. Nevertheless, American grocery store, such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, declared that they wouldn’t sell the fish.
Chance of you eating this fish in the next five years: Medium
With a painful and traumatic procedure, ranchers usually de-horn agitated cows to avoid injuries to other animals or to the people who handle them. In 2013, Minnesota-based Recombinetics used TALEN to insert a gene from a hornless Angus into Holsteins, a classic dairy breed. The modification got the horns to go away, but the cows can’t produce milk.
Chance of you drinking this milk in the next five years: Low
Three percent of all human infants are allergic to milk due to one specific protein. In 2012 AgResearch, a science company in New Zealand, engineered a cow named Daisy to produce milk without that protein. Using a technique called RNA interference, they removed the gene that makes the protein without altering milk production. Daisy was just an experiment on how we can alter nutritional content of food through gene, and the milk is still a long way from market.
Chance of you buying GMO milk in the next five years: Low
Super Muscular Pigs
Jin-Soo Kim, a molecular biologist at Seoul National University, showed off pictures of pigs with super-sized backside. Kim’s team combined pig DNA with a particular gene of the Belgian Blue cattle breed that stimulates muscle growth. Using a gene-editing technique called TALEN, the researchers induced a similar mutation in their pigs. The result is a bodybuilder pig. Kim and his team are planning to sell edited pig sperm in China, which is investing heavily in gene editing and historically hasn’t been strict on regulation.
Chance of you eating GMO pork in the next five years: High