Chinese scientists announced they successfully bred genetically modified pigs immune to a swine viral disease that causes AIDS-like symptoms. They also claim that the same technology could be used to breed lean pigs, pigs used as human organ donors. 

The South China Morning Post reported about the development of transgenic pigs on October 19. The news received extreme criticism.

The research

Blue ear disease is common and costs pig farmers a lot of money. Estimates show that the virus is present in 80% of Chinese herds and 75% of U.S. herds. Once infected, the pigs will carry the virus all their lifetime.

A team led by Hua Jinlian at Northwest A&F University and Wei Hongjiang of Yunnan Agricultural University came up with a new way to stop infections at their root. They found a piece of a gene that binds to viruses. They used an enzyme to cut out the matching part of the DNA in pig embryos. This made the piglets resistant to viruses.

In addition, to make leaner meat, the team took out genes that stop muscles from growing. 

The success rate is not 100%. Only one of the three sows successfully gave birth.

Once the method is fully developed, scientists will consider other applications, such as changing the metabolism of pigs so that their waste smells less, making smaller pigs as pets, and creating suitable donors for organ transplants.

The ethical issue

New York commentator Wang He criticized the Chinese authorities for such irresponsible gene editing.

Wang cited the heated debates over genetically modified crops in China, the numerous diseases and functional degradation after humans consume these crops.

Wang He is concerned that if the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) promotes genetically modified animals throughout China, it will harm the Chinese people and the rest of the world.

Wang believes that God made all creatures on earth the way they are for a good reason. Editing genes and changing the functioning of organisms in the laboratory have disastrous results.

He also added that, in terms of ethics, it is absurd for CCP to use pigs as organ donors for humans. Wang said it is an insult to human dignity to put pig organs into a human body.

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