Heritage Hogs

  • Barbara Schaefer thinks locally raised heritage meat makes economic and environmental sense. (Photo by Lucy Martin)

Variety isn’t just the spice of life. You could say it is life. And you can’t have variety without lots and lots of genes.

Farmers have spent thousands of years developing livestock that do well in different conditions.

Modern agriculture usually concentrates on just a few breeds that maximize profit. But a lot of people don’t want to see all the valuable genes in older breeds just disappear.

Lucy Martin visited a farmer who says the future needs to include heirlooms from the past:

Transcript

Variety isn’t just the spice of life. You could say it is life. And you can’t have variety without lots and lots of genes.

Farmers have spent thousands of years developing livestock that do well in different conditions.

Modern agriculture usually concentrates on just a few breeds that maximize profit. But a lot of people don’t want to see all the valuable genes in older breeds just disappear.

Lucy Martin visited a farmer who says the future needs to include heirlooms from the past.

(Schaefer entering barn: “Watch your head, it’s a little mucky in here…”)

It’s a bright winter day, inside a classic red barn in Southern Ontario. We’re admiring docile animals whose name says it all: Large Black Pig. They look fine. Even though this pig is listed as critically endangered.

Schaefer: Sometimes you’ll be standing here and you think there are no piglets and suddenly one rises out of the straw!

(Sound of contented grunting)

Barbara Schaefer used live in Toronto. Until a few years ago, her career revolved around managing environmental projects. But when she got laid off, she decided to put theory into practice.

Schaefer: I can’t save the polar bear, but I can save this breed. How many things can you say that about? And that’s why what I’m doing now is 200 times more relevant.

What she’s doing now, is weaving different environmental threads together. Preserving the genetic diversity of rare livestock. Putting marginal land to higher use. Trying to revitalize rural economies. Offering an alternative to factory farming.

Nearly all commercial pork across North America comes from just a few main breeds, usually reared in confinement systems. A lot of science goes into maximizing production. But Schaefer doesn’t think that’s the whole picture.

Schaefer: They’re packed in fairly close, they don’t get the benefit of being outside in the sunlight. They have a artificial concrete floor, which for them, is a horror. Because these guys think with their nose, they want to be turning things up all the time and there’s no opportunity for that.

(Sounds of distant tractor and more pigs grunting)

In the barn yard, I mingle with small herds of thigh-high, curious pigs as they as they mill about, soaking up sun. Some amble over to near-by pastures for naps inside cosy hay huts.

Schaefer’s customers include local restaurants and ‘foodies’, people who like to cook and eat.

Fans admire heritage breeds because these animals were bred to thrive in the specific conditions of small-scale, local agriculture.

Lawrence: They’re rustic, they’re hardy, they’re often good mothers.

Ted Lawrence has spent years on this cause with Rare Breeds Canada. Some really admire the animals. And then there’s the whole ‘insurance’ argument: odd breeds have genes worth keeping. As base stock for even newer breeds, to adapt to changes in climate, or to survive some epidemic.

Lawrence: Food security, that will turn heads more quickly than saying we have to preserve the genetic diversity of minor breeds.

If these animals are special, why slaughter them?

Lawrence: That is actually a slogan that has been used in Great Britain: ‘We must eat them to save them’. It sounds counter-intuitive but what’s the purpose of breeding them if you can’t make any money, if you can’t sell them? Then the genetics will not continue. The breed will go extinct.

(kitchen clatter and music playing at Murray Street Restaurant)

Chef Steve Mitton co-owns a restaurant in Ottawa which features Schaefer’s pork. He’d hate to see old breeds die out.

Mitton: I mean, I get entire animals in and break them down from head to toe, and we use every last bit of it. The yield of the Large Black, in particular, is outstanding.

Mitton says more and more people care about where their food comes from and how animals are treated.

Mitton: I just want to broaden their horizons, open people’s minds a little bit, so they know that this is out there. And it’s just as good as commercial pork.

Most meat eaters have no idea what breed of animal ends up on their plate. But making sure there are lots of breeds around can help keep those plates full, and tasty.

For the Environment Report, I’m Lucy Martin in Ontario.

Related Links

The Future of Corn

  • Scientists say this research could allow us to breed new corn varieties faster than ever before. (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

You might think you know corn –
as in corn tortillas, corn-flakes,
corn-bread and so on. But do you
really know corn? Like, did you
know that our last harvest could
be one of our biggest, or that most
American corn is genetically modified?
Shawn Allee reports experts
want us to get re-acquainted with
our biggest crop because we need
to make huge decisions about its
future:

Transcript

You might think you know corn –
as in corn tortillas, corn-flakes,
corn-bread and so on. But do you
really know corn? Like, did you
know that our last harvest could
be one of our biggest, or that most
American corn is genetically modified?
Shawn Allee reports experts
want us to get re-acquainted with
our biggest crop because we need
to make huge decisions about its
future:

Virginia Walbot researches corn genetics at Stanford University, and recently she got news that didn’t just make her day – it kinda made her decade. Walbot says scientists just finished sequencing genes of an important corn genome.

“The genes are like the words in different languages and what you need is a dictionary that lists all those words, and that dictionary for us, is the genome sequence.“

Walbot says this research could allow us to breed new corn varieties faster than ever before. That’s a big deal because even though we benefit from corn we have now, we could make it better. For example, corn creates environmental problems – take corn fertilizer.

“Of course, adding fertilizer really boosts a lot of yield, but the downstream effects aren’t really great. So, there’s runoff from farms that contaminates the water supply. Making corn as efficient as possible and just giving enough fertilizer to sustain yields, those would be fantastic goals.“

Now, most corn researchers want to meet environmental goals, but there’s a question science alone can’t answer – what kinds of corn should we grow or improve?

Kinds of corn? Maybe you’re thinkin’ “corn chips” versus “popcorn” but there’re bigger differences. We eat sweet corn – most corn’s starchy industrial stuff.

“I think that’s one thing consumers get confused about. Today, only one percent of corn production goes into sweet corn.“

That’s Pam Johnson. She’s with the National Corn Growers Association. Johnson says about half our corn goes to animal feed, then we eat the meat or dairy products from that.

But a lot goes to industrial products, too. Ethanol uses more than a third of the corn in the American corn market.

Johnson says corn farmers want scientists to create specialty industrial corn that can fetch premium prices – like corn just for ethanol or corn just for renewable, corn-based plastic.

“You know, we’ve always said for a long time that anything that’s made from petroleum might be able to be made from a renewable and I think that’s an exciting thing to ponder as a corn grower.“

Johnson predicts new genetic science will also improve corn we eat directly, but is that likely to happen?

“I have my doubts.“

That’s Rainer Bussman. He’s with The Missouri Botanical Garden, and he studies how people use plants.

“Feeding people is less economic incentive than producing large amounts of corn for animal feed or biofuels, so I do have my doubts there.“

Bussman says it’s a shame food varieties of corn will get less attention from genetic research. He says he worries about food security. He figures if we grow more types of food corn we’ll be better protected from crop diseases.

It’s also a matter of taste, though. Bussman’s traveled the world and tasted corn we don’t grow here – like a blue kind in South America.

“They would call that maize murada which means purple corn and that is mostly used to produce a very refreshing, sweet beverage, so you get this get this deeply purple, sugary drink. It’s all natural, no sugar added.“

Bussman says Native Americans and the earliest settlers produced hundreds of varieties of corn for all kinds of food dishes – corn for just pudding, just bread, just porridge, and so on. They created this food diversity without modern genetic science, but we do have it.

Bussman asks why should our science just improve animal feed, ethanol, and bio-plastic? Why not make food our priority, too?

For The Environment Report, I’m Shawn Allee.

Related Links

Genetically Engineered Crops in Your Stuff

  • The USDA reports, this past year, 85% of the corn crops planted were genetically altered. (Photo courtesy of the National Cancer Institute)

The soda-pop you drink, the
t-shirt you wear, the cooking
oil you use – all might contain
genetically engineered material.
Lester Graham reports on a
continuing trend in agriculture:

Transcript

The soda-pop you drink, the
t-shirt you wear, the cooking
oil you use – all might contain
genetically engineered material.
Lester Graham reports on a
continuing trend in agriculture:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports, this past year, 88% of cotton, 91% of soybeans and 85% of the corn crops planted were genetically altered.

That means corn syrup, cotton cloth, and hydrogenated soybean oil are all more than likely are from genetically engineered crops.

Margaret Mellon is with the Union of Concerned Scientists. She says farmers might embrace them, but genetically engineered crops have not really advanced American agriculture that much.

“I’m not saying there are not benefits, but they’re really modest. In particular, I think it’s important to note that it really hasn’t had an impact on yield – which is what we need if we’re going to increase the amount of food in the world and feed more people.”

The makers of genetically engineered seeds, companies such as Monsanto, say their crops do increase yields by stopping weeds and insect damage. The big bio-tech companies say their crops save farmers money, mean fewer harmful pesticides and reduce soil erosion.

For The Environment Report, I’m Lester Graham.

Related Links

Genetically Altered Eucalyptus Trees

  • A company called ArborGen is working on altering Eucalyptus trees, so they can be turned into paper and biofuels more easily. (Photo courtesy of the National Biological Information Infastructure)

There’s already a lot of genetically
modified corn and soybeans out there.
Now, Mark Brush reports, one company
is working on genetically modifying
trees:

Transcript

There’s already a lot of genetically
modified corn and soybeans out there.
Now, Mark Brush reports, one company
is working on genetically modifying
trees:

The company is called ArborGen. And it’s working on altering Eucalyptus trees, so they can be turned into paper and biofuels more easily.

Eucalyptus is native to Australia and New Zealand.

But ArborGen has already got 330 acres of these genetically altered trees planted scattered across the South.

And now it wants the government to allow these trees to flower. And that has people like George Kimbrall worried.

He’s an attorney with the International Center for Technology Assessment. He says if they spread they’ll be bad for the environment.

“They’re water suckers. They don’t allow for much undergrowth. They’re poisonous to most animals. The leaves, the animals can’t eat them. Why would we want the south covered in Eucalyptus trees?”

When eucalyptus was brought over to California – it did become invasive. And there are some reports that it’s invasive in Florida too.

ArborGen says it’s altering these trees so they won’t spread in the wild.

For The Environment Report, I’m Mark Brush.

Related Links

Growing a City in a Greener Way

  • Trussville, Alabama Mayor Gene Melton may not be a staunch environmentalist - take a look at his car - but he still thinks greenspace is important in his city (Photo by Gigi Douban)

For many small town mayors, growth is all good. After all, more houses means more tax revenue, more retail, more jobs. One Alabama mayor agrees, but he also recognizes green space is an amenity worth keeping. And for that, the timing couldn’t be better. Gigi Douban reports:

Transcript

For many small town mayors, growth is all good. After all, more houses means more tax revenue, more retail, more jobs. One Alabama mayor agrees, but he also recognizes green space is an amenity worth keeping. And for that, the timing couldn’t be better. Gigi Douban reports:

Here at the grand opening of a subdivision in Trussville, Alabama, a few dozen families gather outside the sales office for the usual ribbon cutting with giant scissors.

(sound of applause and cheers)

Soon, everyone heads down to the Cahaba River. The river literally will be in the backyard of these houses once they’re built. On the river, they’re having a rubber duck race.

(announcement of duck race)

It’s gimmicky, but these days developers will do just about anything to attract potential buyers.

Another developer had approached Trussville about building homes along the Cahaba River, but then the housing market took a nose dive. The developer wanted out.

Trussville Mayor Gene Melton says the city would have been crazy not to buy the land.

“This property was probably going to sell for $35,000 or $40,000 an acre. We got to the point where we were able to acquire this for $4,500 an acre.”

The city could have turned it into an industrial park or zoned it for retail. But instead, they’ll turn it into a greenway. It’ll connect to nearby parks with the river as the centerpiece.

Now, the mayor of Trussville is not a staunch environmentalist, by any measure. He tools around the city in a gas guzzling SUV. He’s pro-development. But, he says, the same way a city needs development, it needs greenspace, too.

“Have you ever flown in to a big city like Atlanta or Los Angeles and for miles and miles all you see is rooftops? Well that’s how not to build a city.”

The Cahaba River watershed stretches through Alabama’s most populous county. Recently, heavy development along the Cahaba has polluted the water. It’s endangered habitats not just here, but downstream. Trussville is very near the headwaters, so what happens there affects the entire river.

Randall Haddock is thrilled about the new greenspace. He’ a field director with the Cahaba River Society, a conservation group. Haddock says the Cahaba River is among the most biologically diverse in the country.

“It turns out that Alabama has more fish species, more snails, more crayfish, more turtles, freshwater snails more than any other state in the US. So when it comes to things that live in rivers, we’re at the top of the list by a long way.”

(sound of people walking near river)

Haddock says all along the Cahaba, he’s seen plenty of examples of how not to build near the river.

He says this greenspace is an example of how easy it is to minimize impact. Keeping grass on the ground not only means a cleaner river, but it might help reduce flooding.

“When you make so many hard surfaces, the water runs off real fast and gets into the river real quick. And you’ve increased the volume of water and the only response that a river can make is to get bigger.”

The bank erodes, the water is polluted and soon, you start to see species diminish.

(sound of high school students)

David Dobbs is the city’s high school environmental science teacher. He takes his students out behind the school to check on the river. The result: a clean bill of health.

“All the little bugs, they end up being food for the fish, and the more they are of the good ones that are here, that means there’s more food for the fish, so therefore there’s more fish, it’s a very healthy part of the river.”

Trussville, like many small towns, still says without growth, there’d be no city. But now they know, that growth has to protect one of its top amenities – the river.

For The Environment Report, I’m Gigi Douban.

Related Links

Shape-Shifting Fruits and Veggies

  • van der Knaap's team tests tomato starts for the SUN gene - the gene they isolated. SUN is responsible for tomato length. (Photo by Julie Grant)

Vegetables can be really odd shapes.
But what if you could alter fruits
and vegetables into just about any
shape you wanted? Some avid gardeners
come up with strange looking hybrids,
but Julie Grant talked with a researcher
who’s taking the shape of produce to
a whole new level:

Transcript

It’s time to start planting your garden this year. But maybe you’re tired of long, thin
carrots, huge watermelons, and round tomatoes. Julie Grant spoke with one researcher
who’s trying to give us some more options in the shape of fruits and veggies:

Ester van der Knaap steps gingerly around the greenhouse.

We’re at the Ohio State Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster.
The plants here are as tall as we are.

Van Der Knaap points out short, round tomatoes – and some odd-looking long, thin
ones.

“That’s one gene. One gene can make that difference.”

Van der Knaap’s team discovered that gene and isolated it. They call it the SUN gene.
And they’ve been able to clone it in tomatoes.

“You see this one is pretty round. It does not have the SUN gene. And that first one
makes a very elongated fruit, and it does have the SUN gene.”

Van der Knaap’s research could lead to square-shapes – something she thinks the
tomato industry might like. Square tomatoes fit better into packages. And, overall,
square tomatoes might be easier to work with than the common round tomatoes.

“They are mechanically harvested. So if you have a very round tomato, it would roll off
conveyor belts, it’s not very handy.”

So far money for her research has come from the National Science Foundation – not big
ag.

Van Der Knaap is quick to note – her tomatoes are not genetically modified.

You might remember the Calgene tomato which was made firmer by manipulating the
tomato genes with a gene from chickens. Van der Knapp’s just isolating the genes that affect the
shape of the tomatoes. Turning them on or off alters the shape.

Designer fruit shapes are gaining popularity. Check out any seed catalog, and there’s
a huge variety – some large and segmented, some pear-shaped, some oval, some
resembling chili peppers.

People have been cross-breeding tomatoes to make the shapes they want for a long
time. But this is not the same thing.

“It’s just funny, ‘cause my brother was working with some genetic things with tomatoes in
our attic.”

Dick Alford is a chef and professor of hospitality management at the University of Akron.

The difference between what his brother – and lots of other folks have been doing – and
what van der Knaap is doing is the difference between cross-breeding and locating a
specific gene that affects the shape of tomatoes.

The only other gene like this that’s been found so far was discovered by van der Knaap’s
advisor at Cornell University.

[sound of a kitchen and cutting veggies]

Chef Alford watches students as they cut yellow crookneck squash and carrots.

They’re trying to make uniform, symmetrical shapes out of curvy and pointed vegetables.
There’s a lot of waste. Chef Alford hates to see so much get thrown away. So he’s got
a request of Dr. van der Knaap.

“If we could get square carrots, it would be great. If you could get a nice long, a tomato
as long as a cucumber, where you could get 20 or 30 slices out of it, it would be great.”

In a country that loves hamburgers, Van der Knaap has heard that request before. But
the long, thin tomato hasn’t worked out just yet. She says there’s more genetics to be
studied.

Once we know all the genes responsible for making different shapes in tomatoes, Van
der Knaap says we’ll have a better idea of what controls the shape of other crops, such
peppers, cucumbers, and gourds.

And maybe then we’ll get those square carrots.

For The Environment Report, I’m Julie Grant.

Related Links

Wheat Farmers Reconsider Biotech

  • Wheat farmers are re-considering the genetically modified seed question (Photo courtesy of the USDA)

You’ve probably noticed the price of
bread is a lot higher than just a year ago.
A big reason is higher wheat prices. Bakeries
are trying to figure how to keep costs down,
and farmers think they have an answer: develop
genetically modified wheat seeds. Julie Grant
reports:

Transcript

You’ve probably noticed the price of
bread is a lot higher than just a year ago.
A big reason is higher wheat prices. Bakeries
are trying to figure how to keep costs down,
and farmers think they have an answer: develop
genetically modified wheat seeds. Julie Grant
reports:

Nearly every major US crop is grown with genetically modified seeds – corn,
soybeans, cotton.

Biotech companies take genes from other organisms and put
them into corn and soybean seeds. This alters the behavior
of crops. One of the most used alters crops to withstand
herbicides. So, when an herbicide is sprayed, it kills the
weeds, but the crops survive.

But wheat producers said thank you, but no, to those genetically altered seeds.

Daren Coppock is chief of the National Wheat Growers Association. He says a
lot of wheat farmers didn’t need the genetically altered traits being offered.

First, weeds just aren’t a big problem in some types of wheat.

And second, Coppock says wheat growers were worried about the export market
in Europe and Japan. In those countries, they call genetically altered crops
‘Frankenfoods’.

“And so, it was something where some of our members would get the benefit, but
everybody faced potential risk of having customers say, ‘we don’t want this in
wheat.’”

Since the farmers didn’t want it, Coppock says Monsanto and the other big seed
companies dropped research into biotech wheat. That was five years ago.
Coppock says turning down biotech has since proven to be a bad move for
wheat growers.

Now, the big biotech companies don’t do as much research on how to improve
wheat, including breeding drought resistant varieties. Drought in Australia and
Canada is part of the reason there’s a wheat shortage now, making prices
higher.

“And so the conclusion that the industry basically has come to is, we have to do
something to change the competitiveness equation or we will end up, wheat will
end up, being a minor crop.”

And that could mean wheat shortages in the future.

So wheat farmers are re-considering the genetically modified seed question.
They think asking for new biotech wheat strains might kick start research on
wheat.

Bakers say something needs to be done – wheat prices are way high. And the
people who bake breads, muffins, cookies, and cakes are concerned.

Lee Sanders is with the American Bakers Association, which represents
Pepperidge Farms, Sara Lee, and many smaller bakeries.

“When wheat prices go up 173% in one year, it certainly effects how bakers can
do business. And how smaller bakers, in particular, if they can keep their doors
open.”

Those rising wheat prices are being passed on to consumers. A loaf of bread
that cost $2.50 last year has jumped to $2.85.

But bakers aren’t convinced biotech seeds will lower wheat prices. They’re more
concerned about how their customers will respond to the idea of genetically
modified wheat.

(supermarket sound)

Shoppers in the bread aisle at this Ohio supermarket have mixed views.

“We buy the cheapest bread we can find, so it wouldn’t make much difference.”

(laughs) “If it’s bread and it’s 70 cents, I buy it. It doesn’t bother me at all.”

“I don’t know, it just doesn’t sound good. I mean, I don’t mind paying a little bit
more for bread. Everything else is more expensive now too.”

“If it would keep prices down, I’d probably actually go with genetically altered
wheat.”

You might not realize it, but you’re already eating lots of genetically modified
foods. They’re added to all kinds of processed foods, from frozen foods to juices
and cereals.

The US government says they’re safe – so they’re not labeled.

But people in many other countries are more aware – and a lot more concerned
about biotech foods.

Doug Gurian Sherman is a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned
Scientists. If American wheat goes biotech, he says farmers will probably lose
their export markets.

“They can go elsewhere and they will go elsewhere. They really are trying to
avoid it for any kind of human food use.”

Even if wheat growers can persuade Monsanto and the others to start
researching genetically modified wheat, it will take at least five to ten years
before anything is in the field.

By then, farmers say, climate change may make
some places so dry that people will need biotech wheat whether they like it or
not.

For The Environment Report, I’m Julie Grant.

Related Links

Barnyard Animal Extinctions

  • Milking Devon cattle are rare domestic breeds from an earlier day, some dating back to the 18th century. The animals hold genetic information that some people think is too valuable to lose. (Photo by Lester Graham)

When you think of endangered species, farm animals might not top the list. But some types of farm animals are in danger of going extinct.
Certain breeds of common barnyard creatures are no longer considered commercially viable, and are being allowed to die off. But as the GLRC’s Chris Lehman reports, there’s an effort to preserve some rare varieties of
livestock:

Transcript

When you think of endangered species, farm animals might not top the list. But some
types of farm animals are in danger of going extinct. Certain breeds of common barnyard
creatures are no longer considered commercially viable, and are being allowed to die off.
But as the GLRC’s Chris Lehman reports, there’s an effort to preserve some rare varieties
of livestock:


When you buy a pound of ground beef or a pack of chicken legs, you probably don’t
think about what kind of cow or chicken the meat came from. And in most stores,
you don’t have a choice. Beef is beef and chicken is chicken.


Of course, there’s many different kinds of cows and chickens, but most farmers stick with
just a handful of types. They prefer animals that are specially bred to produce more meat
in less time.


That’s all well and good if your motive is profit.


But some people think the move towards designer farm animals is risky.
Jerome Johnson is executive director of Garfield Farm Museum.


(Sound of turkeys gobbling)


Johnson says breeds like these Narragansett turkeys carry genetic traits that could be
desirable in the future. They don’t require as much food, for instance. That could be an
attractive feature as costs continue to rise:


“Some of the high-producing, high-yielding animals today, they may require a lot of
input. In other words, a lot of feed, more expense since so many things are derived from
petroleum, from the diesel fuel that powers the tractors to the production of fertilizer
and the like, and chemicals for herbicides and all… that as the cost of that goes up, it may
actually be cheaper to raise a different type of animal, that doesn’t require that much.”


Johnson also says some common poultry breeds get sick more easily. That’s part of the
risk farmers take when they choose meatier birds. Normally that might not be a problem,
but if Avian flu spreads to the US, some of the older breeds might carry genes that could
resist the disease. If those breeds disappear, that genetic information would be lost.


But some farmers choose rare livestock breeds for completely different reasons.


(Sound of baby chicks)


Scott Lehr and his family raise several varieties of pure-bred poultry, sheep, and goats on
their northern Illinois farm. These chicks are just a few weeks old…


(Sound of baby chicks)


“These are all pure-bred birds. These are birds that have been around a long time. Some
of the breeds that are in there, there’s Bantam Brown Leghorns, Bantam White Leghorns.”


Some of the poultry breeds are so rare and exotic they’re practically collector’s items.
Lehr’s son enters them in competitions. But the animals on their farm aren’t just for
showing off. Scott says they use the wool from their herd of Border Cheviot sheep for a
craft studio they opened in a nearby town:


“There’s quite a bit of demand growing for handspun wool and the rising interest in the
hand arts, if you will… knitting and spinning and weaving and those kinds of things… are
really beginning to come into, I guess, the consciousness of the American public in many
ways. It’s evolving beyond a cottage industry.”


And the wool of rare breeds like the Border Cheviot sheep is popular among people who want handspun wool.


(Sound of Johnson calling to giant pig, “Hey, buddy, how ya doin’?”)


Back at the Garfield Farm Museum, Jerome Johnson offers a handful of grass to a 700
pound Berkshire hog. This Berkshire is different from the variety of pig with the same
name that’s relatively common today. Johnson says these old-style Berkshires have a
different nose and more white hair than the modern Berkshire. They also tend to be fatter,
which used to be a more desirable trait.


The museum’s pair of old-style Berkshires are literally a dying breed. Johnson says the
boar isn’t fertile anymore:


“They were the last breeding pair that we knew of. These were once quite common but
now are quite rare. And we maybe have found a boar that is fertile that is up in
Wisconsin that was brought in from England here a couple years ago that we could try
crossing with our sow to see if we can preserve some of these genetics.”


(Sound of pigs)


Advocates of rare livestock breeds say the animals can be healthier and sometimes tastier
than the kinds raised on large commercial farms. And although you won’t find many
farm animals on the endangered species list, they could have important benefits for future
farmers.


For the GLRC, I’m Chris Lehman.

Related Links

Modified Fish to Protect Water Supplies?

Some scientists working on protecting freshwater supplies from terrorism are trying to recruit a new special agent. It’s a small fish that may serve as a sentinel of contamination. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:

Transcript

Some scientists working on protecting freshwater supplies from
terrorism are trying to recruit a new special agent. It’s a small fish that
may serve as a sentinel of contamination. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:


Researchers are injecting firefly genes or a fluorescent
jellyfish protein into a small tropical freshwater species
called the zebrafish. The hope is that when the genetically
modified zebrafish is exposed to environmental pollutants or
chemical warfare agents, the fish would give off light or a green signal.


University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee scientist Michael Carvan says the
fish would be placed in water coming in from a source such as Lake Michigan.


“This would kind of be like the canary in the coal mine… where if the fish
signaled that there were toxic chemicals in the water… that that would alert
the system and probably shut down water that would go beyond that point.”


Carvan acknowledges that he’s having trouble getting the zebrafish to pass along
the so-called green gene from generation to generation.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Chuck Quirmbach in Milwaukee.