Scientists are bringing home the genetically-modified bacon, literally. 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 pigs with 24% less body fat than normal pigs. They used CRISPR to target a special protein known for regulating body temperature by burning fat proteins called UCP1.
Every bacon lover out there knows that it is high in fat, calories, sodium and nitrates. Low-fat pigs mean automatic low-fat bacon, but that was not originally the plan.
The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said the experiment was meant to cut down on the UCP1 fat cells, 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. He also added that he doubts the gene editing effect will make the meat taste differently, but R. Michael Roberts, a University of Missouri professor, said he did not think the Food and Drug Administration would approve the genetically modified pigs. 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.