Sunday, April 3, 2011

Got Mom?

Scientists have created genetically modified cattle that produce "human" milk in a bid to make cows' milk more nutritious.
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. They hope genetically modified dairy products from herds of similar cows could be sold in supermarkets. The research has the backing of a major biotechnology company.
Something about this is kinda freaky to me. I'm not at all antagonistic when it comes to genetically modified foods, and in some way logic tells me there's not big a difference between the selective breeding we've been doing for ages and the genetic modifying we are doing today. (OK, so maybe it's poor logic, but it's all I got.)

As a kid, I used to selectively breed birds, so I've known something about it, on a very basic practical level, for almost my whole life. That it was all about lining up the genes to get what you wanted.
It gave me an edge in grade school science classes when the topic came up. Seemed I was being 'taught' in the classroom what I had already been doing in the backyard for quite some time, tutored by my dad, who was raised as a farmer.
Sure, it's somewhat different from inter-species gene splicing, but an ear of corn is still an ear of corn as a pig is still a pig.

But this... ??

What are we doing?
Turning women into cows?...
Or cows into women?

I don't know... just don't seem right to me.

Or, to quote an animal rights whackjob:
"Why do we need this milk – what is it giving us that we haven't already got."
I would suggest it would be much easier, and more economical, to just encourage further use of real human breast milk.

It's already being produced where needed, is not in short supply, never needs mixing,refrigeration, sterilization or any additional packaging ('cept for maybe extreme circumstances.) Unless...

This whole Mom-Cow milk thing is just one more brick in the wall of the secret world government looking forward to the future when mothers will no longer be necessary, or required, to create the ultimate utopia of super worker humans raised from clones who populate the earth to serve the Illuminati.

It's the only reason I can come up with.


my name is Amanda said...


*going to go back to my corner of the Internet and try to un-see that photo*

Brian said...

"...some way logic tells me there's not big a difference between the selective breeding we've been doing for ages and the genetic modifying we are doing today."

I don't think that there is. It's a difference of degree, not type.

Introducing transgenes into the wild is potentially more problematic (though probably not as big a deal as the anti-GM crowd would have you believe). But cows aren't isn't like they are going to wander off and cross-breed with another herd the way pollen and seeds can be spread unintentionally.

Brian said...

I don't even want to know what your search terms were to find that picture.

Mr. D said...

That's not the worst picture ever, but it may be in the top 5.

As for the milk, you're right -- it's simply a more sophisticated way to do what humans have been doing for a very long time now. And as long as I'm not forced to drink the stuff, I don't much care whether it's available or not.

Bike Bubba said...

The one difference I can see between standard hybridization and this is that standard hybridization simply uses the DNA you've got in chromosome-sized pods. What they're attempting is to put different chromosomes in, and change the data on the chromosomes.

Could lead to very interesting results, like those pictured. And, ugh.

Foxfier said...

scientists have successfully introduced human genes into 300 dairy cows

Eeek, yuk, and SO not good.

As the traditional question goes: "what measure a man?"

I've got no problem with GM plants and animals, I have trouble with putting human genes into animals. (or the other way around, honestly)

The only way to avoid the obvious outcome-- classing someone as not a person because they're not human "enough", and all the human experimentation that comes from that-- is to not use human DNA in genetic modification. There's a difference in kind between, say, using a pig heart in a heart transplant and making a pig part human or a human part pig.

On an aside- the picture is really well done; where's it from?

Brian said...

There are mice engineered to express human proteins (or the human version of proteins that mice express) to study specific disease processes. They look and act...well, like mice. And they've been around for a long time.

(The best example I can think of is the APP mouse, which expresses amyloid precursor protein, which is thought to be involved in making the "plaques" associated with Alzheimer's disease. Mice don't make it naturally. But if you make them express it, then you have a model system you can manipulate to study the disease process, in a way that you just can't do with humans.)

Anyway, my understanding is that the cows are like the mice...they express one or two humanized proteins. So while they are technically, genetically, "part human," they really are a long way from being endowed with anything anyone would recognize as "humanity."

Foxfier said...

I don't really care if they're identifiable as human; it's a bad idea, sets a bad precedent, and they should look at other ways to do it. Sort of like the assassination order out on that Muslim Cleric who happens to be a US citizen--I don't object to doing it, I object to the way it's done.

Palm boy said...

The real question is how well does it mix with my bowel of cereal in the morning. If its all quirky and not like 2%, no dice.

I also wonder what happens to calves raised on this hybrid milk...

Also, I second Brian's like of desire to know your search terms for the image.

Jade said...

Two immediate thoughts.

Did we learn NOTHING from "The Island of Dr. Moreau"?!?

And that photo... someone had some serious time on their hands. It's lovely Photoshop work, but I wonder what the original purpose was for it.