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WTF? Genetically Modified Cows Produce Human Breast Milk

Posted Apr 06 2011 12:00am
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    The Telegraph reports:

    The scientists have successfully introduced human genes into 300 dairy cows to produce milk with the same properties as human breast milk.

    Human milk contains high quantities of key nutrients that can help to boost the immune system of babies and reduce the risk of infections.

    The scientists behind the research believe milk from herds of genetically modified cows could provide an alternative to human breast milk and formula milk for babies, which is often criticised as being an inferior substitute…

    The researchers used cloning technology to introduce human genes into the DNA of Holstein dairy cows before the genetically modified embryos were implanted into surrogate cows.

    Writing in the scientific peer-reviewed journal Public Library of Science One, the researchers said they were able to create cows that produced milk containing a human protein called lysozyme,

    Lysozyme is an antimicrobial protein naturally found in large quantities in human breast milk. It helps to protect infants from bacterial infections during their early days of life.

    They created cows that produce another protein from human milk called lactoferrin, which helps to boost the numbers of immune cells in babies. A third human milk protein called alpha-lactalbumin was also produced by the cows.

    Here’s a novel idea:  Instead of altering the genes of cows, why don’t we work on creating breast milk banks to help those parents who cannot breastfeed, for whatever reason.

    There are so many ethical issues surrounding genetically modified foods, and when animals are experimented on, the concern goes beyond crop contamination to animal rights.  The Telegraph continues:

    A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals said the organisation was “extremely concerned” about how the GM cows had been produced.

    She said: “Offspring of cloned animals often suffer health and welfare problems, so this would be a grave concern.

    “Why do we need this milk – what is it giving us that we haven’t already got.”

    Helen Wallace, director of biotechnology monitoring group GeneWatch UK, said: “We have major concerns about this research to genetically modify cows with human genes.

    “There are major welfare issues with genetically modified animals as you get high numbers of still births.

    “There is a question about whether milk from these cows is going to be safe from humans and it is really hard to tell that unless you do large clinical trials like you would a drug, so there will be uncertainty about whether it could be harmful to some people.

    “Ethically there are issues about mass producing animals in this way.”

    I would not want to feed my child this humanized cows’ milk. Who knows what effects it would have on our littlest ones?

    When I first heard of this news from the  Organic Consumers Association , I was concerned the milk was being produced for adults and older children too.  Perhaps, one day it will be.  If it really is more nutritious, I can see it being marketed as super milk for humans.  Oh my, oh my, where is GE food taking us?

    Image:   Attribution Some rights reserved by  Kiwi Flickr

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