Brazil issues favorable regulatory determination for PIC’s PRRS-resistant pig

Swine genetics firm working to secure approval in key pork markets around the globe.

May 1, 2024

3 Min Read
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Genus plc, the parent company of PIC (Pig Improvement Company), has announced that Brazil’s government recently issued a favorable regulatory determination for gene-edited pigs resistant to the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus. This decision means Brazil will treat the PRRS-resistant pigs the same as conventionally bred pigs.

“Brazil has embraced biotechnology and agriculture innovation to help its crop and livestock producers be more productive and resilient in a tropical climate. They’ve experienced tremendous success and have significantly increased food production and affordability over the past few decades. We are pleased the Brazilian government recognizes biotechnology as a tool to improve food security, animal welfare and achieve other important benefits, and we’re working to make this tool available to producers in the future,” said Matt Culbertson, chief operations officer at PIC.

It’s important to understand that these regulatory milestones don’t automatically mean PIC will begin sales. PIC is working to secure approval for the PRRS-resistant pig in the United States, Canada, China, Japan, Mexico and Brazil, along with other pork-producing countries. Colombia recently issued a favorable regulatory determination for the PRRS-resistant pig. PIC anticipates a series of regulatory decisions over the next few years, including a decision from the United States Food and Drug Administration in PIC’s FY2025.

In addition to securing key regulatory approvals, other considerations will determine when PIC initiates a phased global launch. As with any genetic improvement, it will take several years to multiply enough PRRS-resistant genetics to meet global demand.

Using gene editing to protect pigs from PRRS

Gene editing is making headlines because of its successful human healthcare and agricultural applications. The technology shows tremendous potential to help treat and prevent human diseases, including HIV, sickle cell anemia and a variety of cancers, according to the World Health Organization. Gene editing can be used to provide similar disease-resistance benefits to improve animal health.

PIC developed a solution to protect pigs from the PRRS virus, which causes animal suffering and prematurely kills millions of pigs per year. Using gene editing technology, PIC deleted a small portion of the pig’s DNA that encodes a protein that the virus uses to enter and infect the pig’s cells. Without the binding site, the PRRS virus is unable to enter the cell, replicate and infect the pig. Like humans inherit traits from their parents, the pig’s offspring will inherit the PRRS-resistant trait. 

Adopting the PRRS-resistant pig can also have secondary benefits, including improving the overall health of the herd and the sustainability of the production system. The PRRS virus suppresses pigs’ immune systems making them more susceptible to secondary infections that may need to be treated by antibiotics.

research study by Iowa State University showed injectable and water antimicrobial use in groups of nursery pigs increased 379% during the 15-week epidemic phase after the farm became PRRS-positive. The use of injectable antibiotics also increased 274% in older pigs, closer to market weight.

If herds can eliminate PRRS infections, pigs will have less need for antibiotic use, which reduces producers’ input costs and supports antimicrobial stewardship. It can also reduce the physical, mental and emotional strain on workers resulting from a PRRS outbreak.

Genetic improvements support sustainable protein production

PIC has more than a 60-year legacy of providing genetic improvements in pigs. Gene editing allows PIC to accomplish genetic improvements — similar to those achieved through traditional breeding — faster.

Advanced genetics produce healthier animals. Healthy pigs typically consume feed and water more efficiently than pigs battling disease, which may reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water use, land use change and production costs. That, in turn, helps make farms and pork production more sustainable. PIC is working with credible, third-party researchers to conduct a Lifecycle Analysis to quantify these benefits and will share the research findings in 2024.

PIC operates as a joint venture Agroceres PIC in Brazil.

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