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Should genetically engineered crops and animals be part of the P solution?

January 17, 2011


Who can resist a cute picture of a pig?

ABC News has a piece (link) about the work of Dr Cecil Forsberg (Guelph University), who has developed a line of Yorkshire pigs genetically engineered to carry a gene for phytase, an enzyme that allows them to more efficiently use unavailable phytate-P in their feed.  This reduces the amount of P in their waste, reducing runoff and generally “tightening up” the P cycle.  The article discusses various controversies from some quarters about the ethical and technological appropriateness of the approach.  Another promising means to increase the P efficiency of our food system are crop plants genetically engineered to more efficiently extract P from soil, such as the work of Dr Roberto Gaxiola (School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University; link).  Fields planted with such crops would lose less P to runoff and erosion and would allow re-capture of P down the line.


Luckily, both of these scientists will be at the upcoming Sustainable P Summit in Tempe, allowing discussion of all the issues that surround such strategies.   Registration is still open!  (

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