WSU makes history with first ever gene-edited pigs for human consumption

Gene-edited pigs are making history at Washington State University, with the FDA authorizing them for human consumption for the first time ever.

WSU researchers say they used the gene-editing tool ‘CRISPR’ on five pigs. They say they wanted to get approval from the FDA to show the meat is safe to eat. In this case, the gene-edited pigs will take the form of German-style sausages, which will be used in “catering services that raise travel funds for the student members of the WSU Meat Judging team.”

“The original intent in making these animals was to try to improve the way that we feed people,” WSU Professor Jon Oatley said in a news release. “And we can’t do that unless we can work with the FDA system to get these animals actually into the food chain.”

In gene editing, scientists delete or edit the DNA of a plant or animal to achieve a desired trait. These five pigs were edited to allow for offspring that bear similar traits to a separate male pig. Longer term, this method -- known as “surrogate sires” -- can allow researchers to combine desirable traits of multiple male pigs to pass down through their line.

A separate goal cited by the university was to “dispel misinformation” surrounding gene-editing as a whole by having this come from a trusted institution.

“There’s a trust that comes with university-based research,” Oatley said. “At WSU, we’re all about the science. We just want to make sure the research is valid, and the animals we produce are healthy.”