Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Genitically Modified Cows Produce 'Human' Milk

by Jason Best, Posted Apr 4th 2011 @ 2:00PM

The U.S. has outsourced a lot in the past couple decades, but could breast milk one day carry a "Made in China" label?

This news comes not from the pages of the supermarket tabloids but from the online academic journal Public Library of Science ONE, where Chinese researchers have reported that they've produced human-like milk from genetically modified dairy cows.

"Our study describes transgenic cattle whose milk offers similar nutritional benefits as human milk," lead researcher Ning Li told the London Daily Telegraph. "The modified bovine milk is a possible substitute for human milk."

He describes the modified cow juice as tasting "stronger" than regular milk (ok, gross) and says that some aspects of his team's research could go commercial in as little as three years. However, Li projects that it will take a decade or more before mothers start pouring his mutant concoction into their babies' bottles.

Human breast milk is chockfull of vital nutrients for infants, and so far Li's team has managed to create cows that produce both lysozyme (a protein that protects against bacterial infections) and lactoferrin (which increases the number of immune cells in babies).

Setting aside the "yuck factor," engineered breast milk could be a boon for mothers who have trouble breastfeeding. Despite widespread public squeamishness about so-called "Frankenfoods," scientists routinely portray such concern as misguided and misinformed.

"Genetically modified animals and plants are not going to be harmful unless you deliberately put in a gene that is going to be poisonous. Why would anyone do that in a food?" one British biologist told the Daily Telegraph. "Genetically modified food, if done correctly, can provide benefit for consumers in terms of producing better products."

But what's in it for the cows?

As animal welfare advocates point out, genetically modified animals often suffer from a host of health problems. Indeed, in two of Li's experiments, ten out of 42 cows died shortly after birth while six more died within the next six months.

Read more: http://slashfood.com/2011/04/04/genitically-modified-cows-produce-human-milk/#ixzz1IfwO36E9

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