Yuck! Human breast milk produced from cows

Updated on 11 April 2011 | 0 Comments

Introducing human genes into cows means their milk could be used instead of breast milk. Would you trust it?

It’s a bit late for an April Fool. So I’m sure you won’t have any trouble believing that Chinese scientists have successfully introduced human genes into 300 dairy cows, in order to produce cow milk with the same properties as human breast milk.

Does that idea disgust you? Well, maybe it shouldn’t. Professor Ning Li believes this could provide an alternative to breast milk and formula for babies.

Human milk contains high quantities of key nutrients that can help to boost the immune system of babies and reduce the risk of infection.  For people who do not want to breastfeed or cannot, the most common alternative is to use formula milk.

Arguments have raged for years on the pros and cons of both breast milk and formula.  Have these recent revelations created a smart solution?  I’m not so sure.

Milky madness

If I’m honest, I think it all sounds a little bit...weird.  Just a few months ago, ice cream store, The Icecreamists, unveiled their ‘Baby Gaga’ ice cream, made from human breast milk.  Now we’re reversing the process; cows are turning into humans, humans are making ice cream – it’s all gone a bit crazy.

What’s good about it?

On paper it sounds good.  Various strains of the milk have been developed to contain the human protein lysozyme which helps to protect infants from bacterial infections.  Other proteins that have been replicated are lactoferrin that helps boost the immune system and alpha lactalbumin.

For babies who cannot be breastfed, access to human proteins could feel like a worthwhile option.  Some research suggests that babies who consume formula milk are much more susceptible to a range of infections and medical complications.  An alternative to formula may just be what a lot of families have been waiting for.

And what’s not?

There are a few things, however,  that just don’t seem right.  Firstly, during two experiments carried out by the researchers, of 42 transgenic calves that were born, just 26 of them survived.  It begs the question, how far are we prepared to push science before it turns into some kind of cruel game.

More importantly, with something so new and controversial, surely the last people you would want to experiment on are babies.  Even after extensive trials and rigorous checks (which surely would have to be carried out on babies to get accurate results), is it wise to test something on an infant at the most vulnerable stage of their life?

Where do you stand?

Patti Rundall, of Baby Milk Action, has said “there could be incredible risks with these products that we don’t know about.  Cow’s milk is never going to be like breast milk.”

Professor Keith Campbell, a biologist who was part of the team that cloned Dolly the sheep, denied that GM animals posed a threat to human health.  He says,  “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?”

So what are your thoughts? Is this a viable option or science gone mad? Post your thoughts in the comments box below.

Also worth your attention:

Breast milk ice cream hits the shops

David Cameron: Stop trying to ‘protect’ our food!

The biggest food myths in Britain

5 weird things people do with food



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