Mooman Milk? That Can’t Be Good
We all know that when it comes to feeding babies, breast is best. Whether a mother chooses to breastfeed or not there are undeniable health benefits, for herself and her baby, when a baby is breastfed. Of course, not everyone chooses to breastfeed and formula companies are constantly updating their products in a bid to produce something as close as possible to human milk.
Now there’s a new and, in my opinion, worrying development in this area. Scientists in China have started trying to create a cow’s milk which is closer in nature to human milk. Using cloning technology, the scientists have introduced human genes into the DNA of cattle, hoping to produce milk which more closely resembles human milk. They believe they are succeeding and that in a decade’s time we will be able to buy this new milk.
Professor Ning Li, the scientist who led the research and director of the State Key Laboratories for AgroBiotechnology at the China Agricultural University insisted that the GM milk would be as safe to drink as milk from ordinary dairy cows. He said:
The milk tastes stronger than normal milk. We aim to commercialize some research in this area in coming three years. For the “human-like milk”, 10 years or maybe more time will be required to finally pour this enhanced milk into the consumer’s cup.
You can read the full story here.
What I don’t understand is why? Why would someone pay money to buy what their body already produces (but better) for free? Why would someone who chooses to formula feed choose this new milk instead, knowing that it is genetically modified, but not knowing what the long term effects might be.
And how? I don’t understand how they can claim it will be as good, or nearly as good, as human milk. They may well be right that it will have the same immune-boosting properties as human breast milk, but it won’t supply everything a child needs, perfectly tailored to their requirements.
When I feed my daughter, she gets everything she needs – food and drink – in one go, because human milk changes throughout the feed in order to satisfy all the baby’s needs. Over time, the composition changes to meet the changing needs of a baby – the composition of the milk when the baby is 4 days old is not the same as when the baby is 6 months old, because the body knows to change the milk to tailor it perfectly to the child. This new cows milk will not do that. It will not change dynamically to meet a child’s needs, like human milk. It won’t come in “stages” like forumla milk (it’s already been noted how difficult it will be to create enough healthy cattle to produce the quantity of milk needed to go to market; imagine if they had to do that three times over, in order to produce milk for different stages.
There are so many potential problems that I don’t know where to go next. The milk will not change with a baby’s needs, like human breast milk. It is unlikely to be produced in different stages, providing for the different needs of children as they grow, like existing forumla milk aims to. But it will be the product of cloned and/or genetically modified animals. It will be the product of animals who do not enjoy good health (remember, cloned animals have much shorter life spand, and poorer health, for reasons the scientists do not properly understand).
I think it’s really worrying that this research is going ahead (although it is happening in China, where the regulations are not as tight as here in Europe). But I also find it amazing the amount of effort scientists are willing to go to, the amount of money they are willing to spend, and the animals they are willing to experiment on in order to find an alternative to what nature has already perfected. I understand that there is a need for an alternative (although in reality, an alternative is needed in very few cases), but I don’t understand all this effort to produce something that is no better than what is already available.
I’d be really interested to know what other people think.