In 2019, a massive outbreak of swine fever devastated China’s stock—nearly a quarter of the global pig population died. The disease was first reported in August 2018, but it took the Chinese government a very long time to take action. Paradoxically, the disease spread because the Chinese government took some very positive steps to curb pollution. After new regulations went into effect, industrial pig farmers couldn’t upgrade their facilities fast enough, which led to farm closures and a re-routing of the pork supply. As pigs got sick, they were shipped all around the country, which helped the disease spread. China consumes a tremendous amount of pork, and it will take years to rebuild the swine population. Enter genome editing: There are now dozens of gene editing experiments and research projects underway in China to develop new breads of disease-resistant, climate-acclimating super pigs intended for consumption. All of this research could have a spillover effect in other areas of agriculture and medicine, and it could help speed along new regulations.
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