Human breast milk to be produced by cows

Date: Sun Jan 30 2000 - 19:17:34 MST

Here's an interesting GM twist: cows engineered to produce milk that
will be "virtually the same" as that produced by a woman.

This could be a tremendous boon to health, as breast milk has been
shown to be much more healthy for infants than cow's milk or artificial
formulas. But some women can't produce milk or can't breast feed for
other reasons. For them to have access to a milk which truly mimics
human milk should greatly enhance their baby's health.

It is interesting though to see that the reaction from breast feeding
advocates is negative. They want babies to bond with their mothers, and
if manufactured milk is available that is as healthy as human breast milk,
more people might avoid breast feeding and just use the formula.

I suspect that the artificial milk won't be fully as healthy as mother's
milk, because the mother passes on various immunities through her milk,
at least in the early days. But perhaps after a few months it wouldn't
make much difference.

This might be an interesting wedge issue in the natural/environmentalist
camp; whether to support this because it will help babies who can't
receive breast milk by giving them a more healthful formula, or to oppose
it because it might give more excuses not to breast feed.


> From MIRROR,January 13th, 2000
> HUMAN breast milk produced by cows could be on sale within the next
> three years, it was claimed yesterday.
> Scientists have bred a 20-strong herd of animals whose milk contains
> human proteins.
> Once they have "knocked out" even more of the cows' genes, they claim
> the result will be milk virtually the same as that produced by a woman.
> Edinburgh-based biotechnology firm PPL Therapeutics is conducting the
> research at its US subsidiary in Virginia. They are said to be discussing
> partnership deals with three infant formula companies in America and Europe.
> PPL's David Ayares said: "The ultimate goal is to have a completely
> humanised milk product."
> The company's work will be featured in a Channel 4 show tonight.
> If the milk is treated as a new food and not a pharmaceutical product,
> it could be in the shops within 30 months. But campaigners who promote breast
> milk over bottle feeding were horrified. Belinda Phipps of the National
> Childbirth Trust said: "The idea of breeding a GM cow to produce a hybrid milk
> may appeal to scientists, but parents want their babies to have a safe and
> healthy start in life."
> And Pattie Rundall of Baby Milk Action said: "The whole idea that this
> is like human milk in a tin is absolute nonsense."
> The Government said it had not received any applications for the
> product to be used in the UK.

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