According to its creators, the Enviropigs look, sound and taste like normal pigs, but are designed to be greener — each contains genes from mice and E coli bacteria which have been inserted into their DNA with absolute precision.
Those genes make a small but important difference to the way these pigs process their food and so, their manure contains less phosphorus than normal slurry and poses less risk to rivers, streams and lakes, say the scientists.
Unlike normal pigs, Enviropigs have been designed to produce their own phytase, say the creators.
In tests, the Enviropigs were able to absorb more phosphorous from its feed. Their wastes contained less of the potentially toxic substance and their meat also appears to be identical to cuts from a traditional Yorkshire pig.
Professor Rich Moccia of the University of Guelph in Canada, who led a team, is proud of what has been achieved.
“It’s the forefront of discovery in the scientific community. It’s one of only two animals right now using this kind of technology. It really is mind-boggling when you think of it,” the lead scientist told the ‘BBC’.
Prof Moccia added: “They are pretty friendly and pretty gregarious. These pigs are almost identical to a normal Yorkshire pig. They look normal, they grow normally and they behave normally.”
But critics of GM food said the animals are “anything but environmentally friendly” and could lead to more intensive pig farms.
Anti-GM campaigner Lucy Sharratt said the very notion of transgenic animals is a nightmare. “This is an absolutely critical time when North America is at the very centre of the global conflict over genetically engineered animals – to break open a whole new area of application of this technology, which we had never imagined would be possible.
“I am very worried and I think people around the world should be worried about what is happening in North America,” she was quoted as saying.