Scientists in China have been pushing the envelope of genetic engineering. An article published in the peer-reviewed journal Public Library of Science One, documents their research efforts to create genetically modified cows that can produce human milk. Professor Li stated, “Human milk contains the ‘just right’ proportions of protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins for an infant’s optimal growth and development.” Cow’s milk has very different proportions and is designed for a baby cow.
The Chinese researchers used cloning technology to introduce human genes into the DNA of Holstein dairy cows. The genetically modified embryos were implanted into surrogate cows. 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.”
In 2011, the Chinese created a herd of about 300 cows able to produce human-like milk. Unfortunately, problems occurred. During two experiments which resulted in 42 transgenic calves being born, only 26 of the cows survived. Ten died shortly after birth, most with gastrointestinal disease, and six more died within six months of birth. It is not uncommon for the offspring of cloned animals to suffer serious health issues.
While the GMO cow’s milk is closer to human milk, it is still very different. Testing has not been conducted so it is not known what the long-term effects are of drinking this GMO cow’s milk. I review the concerns with genetic engineering in my book, There’s An Elephant in the Room–Exposing Hidden Truths in the Science of Health.
To read a summary of the publication on genetically altered cows producing human-like milk, click here.
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