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WSU Makes History with FDA Approved Gene-Edited Pigs

Jun 29, 2023 | Food

Source Summary

Washington State University has become the first university to receive authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to introduce gene-edited pigs into the human food supply. Led by Jon Oatley, professor of molecular biosciences, the team used the gene editing tool CRISPR to enhance the genetic traits of their pigs. Initially, the pigs were genetically edited to function as “surrogate sires”, allowing them to pass their edited traits to offspring. The desired outcome? To produce livestock that could thrive in harsh conditions while still offering sufficient nutrition for human consumption. The technology involved sterilizing the pigs and implanting them with stem cells from a male pig that carried a desirable trait. However, offspring from these surrogate sires have not yet been FDA approved for consumption. Authorization was only granted for five of the team’s pigs, which took two years and cost around $200,000. With the intent to improve the way people eat, Oatley hopes to work more with the FDA to expand this technology and improve the perception behind it.


The past decade has witnessed remarkable advancements in the gene editing field. With the introduction of CRISPR in the early 2000’s, gene editing is more common than ever using this simple yet powerful tool. However, as Professor Oatley at WSU suggests, there is still a lot of work before genetically-edited products are widely adopted into the human food supply. To date, there has only been one other company to receive FDA approval for their genetically-edited animal. Part of the problem may be in public perception—much of the public views the practice as unethical, and commonly compares it with the likes of GMOs. As the industry grows, people will likely become more accepting of gene-editing technology, and authorization from the FDA will only help this cause. If things go as expected, Oatley is hopeful that genetically-edited meats could be manufactured on a large scale for human consumption within a decade.