GM cows make human breast milk: 5 reasons it’s wrong

By Elizabeth Harrop

8 June 2011

Chinese scientists have genetically modified dairy cows to produce human breast milk, and hope to be selling it in supermarkets within three years.

A positive innovation to replace maligned formula, or a grotesque corporate ethics-bending exercise. I’m with the latter and here’s why:

1. Identical? I don’t think so. The milk is identical to human breast milk according to scientists at China’s Agricultural University in Beijing. How can it be when science is still to fully discover the multiple components of breastmilk.

2. Animal ethics. The herd of 300 cows was bred by inserting human genes into cloned cow embryos. What about the implications for animal ethics in conducting such a procedure.

3. GM safety. The milk is still undergoing safety tests. And you can guarantee those safety tests will not look at the long range implications of using GM technology in this way. Worker Jiang Yao said: “It’s better for you because it’s genetically modified.” The punch line of a very unfunny joke.

4. Best for babies. Babies are the most vulnerable members of human society. How can it possibly be ethical to thrust a scientifically unproven food into them, in the name of simulating breastfeeding.

5. Greed masquerading as generosity. It would be so refreshing if corporate sponsored research and the corporations behind it stumped up and admitted profit is the bottom and top line of what they do.

But no, Professor Li Ning, director of the research project says “There are 1.5 billion people in the world who don’t get enough to eat. It’s our duty to develop science and technology, not to hold it back. We need to feed people first, before we consider ideals and convictions.”

So why not just support breastfeeding. Rather than develop a product which is already available, which comes at no risk, is of a better quality and is free.

Liberty & Humanity

Photo Kat Smith