Genetically modified cows producing milk that could substitute for human breast milk?! Ridiculous you say and laugh it off as something that may have appeared on The Onion.
This story, however, is real.
Reuters reports that researchers at the “State Key Laboratory of Agrobiotechnology of the China Agricultural University introduced human genetic coding into the DNA of Holstein dairy cow embryos, then transferred the embryos into cow surrogates,” and in 2003, the first cow producing milk with allegedly “same” nutritional properties as human breast milk was created. Currently, there are over 300 of such cloned cattle that live on an experimental farm in suburban Beijing.
But it’s not just China that sees cows as vehicles for human milk. According to Financial Times, scientists in Argentina similarly decided to play the DNA game when cows were “given human genes carrying two specific proteins, one of which is present in human breast milk but virtually absent in cow’s milk.” The science behind the Argentinian experiment differs from the Chinese in that “Argentine scientists added the two genes at the same time in a single site in the bovine genome.”
Stephen Colbert feigned vomiting when discussing the story and there is something to that. Cows producing human milk evinces a visceral reaction because it seems wrong on many levels — religious, moral, health and animal rights, to name a few.
The Chinese experiment resulted in “genetically modified cow milk [that] is 80 percent the same as human breast milk.” That’s not a statement of achievement, that’s a warning to stay away from such products.
Haven’t animals suffered enough in the name of our species?