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Leaner pork via biotechnology?

Leaner pork via biotechnology?

Pigs with reduced fat and an increased growth rate have been raised by scientists in University Park, Pa. They injected pigs daily with growth hormone isolated from pig pituitaries. A month's treatment increased the pigs' growth rate by 14 percent and decreased carcass fat by 30 percent. Terry Etherton of Pennsylvania State University says the hormone, called somatotropin, increased feed efficiency--the weight gained per volume of feed consumed--more than 20 percent, a development that could save pork producers $2 billion to $4 billion annually. His laboratory is currently testing somatotropin produced less expensively by genetically engineered microbes.

The corresponding growth hormone for cows, which increases their milk production, has been at the center of a heated debate (SN: 4/5/86, p. 213). Use of the microbially produced bovine growth hormone appears to be commercially feasible, but some argue that increased milk production is not economically desirable in the United States. Etherton says the use of pig somatotropin is not commercially feasible, because farmers would have to make daily injections for the five to six months it takes the pig to reach market weight.

"The critical question to be resolved is the mechanism of delivery,' he says. Various laboratories are trying to develop systems that release such substances as hormones and drugs at a fixed rate. Etherton says, "It would be beneficial to have a delivery system whereby a farmer would inject a pig only once every 30 days.'
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Publication:Science News
Date:May 3, 1986
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