Japan from the inside out

Safe as milk

Posted by ampontan on Monday, August 1, 2011

THE STORY is old enough to have curdled, but it’s news to me. MSNBC-Reuters reported in June:

Scientists at China’s Agricultural University in Beijing announced that they had produced human breast milk from genetically modified dairy cows and expect supplies to be available in supermarkets within three years. Employing technology once used to produce the sheep “Dolly,” researchers created a herd of 300 modified cows, which yielded milk that was reported as “sweeter” and “stronger” than typical cow milk.

Whatever for?

The Brits get more upset about GM foods than the Yanks, so while the American reports were filed in the Weird News section, the British newspapers were Very Concerned. There’s a wealth of detail in the Telegraph article in addition to the justification for the research:

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.

I’m not opposed to scientific research that pushes everyone’s envelope — I’m a progressive, after all — and there are so many ignorable whining weenies among the environmentalists and other variegated Nature Activists it’s easy to discount whatever it is they’re banging on about this week, but I thought the spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals got it right:

“Why do we need this milk – what is it giving us that we haven’t already got.”

Professor Ning Li, the scientist who led the research, unwittingly makes another important point:

“As our daily food, the cow’s milk provided us the basic source of nutrition. But the digestion and absorption problems made it not the perfect food for human being.”

He’s right, and many Health Activists (including the late Jack LaLanne) argue that milk is not intended for human consumption, much less as a daily food. (Disclaimer: I like ice cream and yogurt!) In fact, LaLanne once said:

Milk is for a suckling calf. How many creatures still use milk after they’re weaned? Man.

Most mammals become lactose intolerant as they grow, but it’s thought humans became lactose persistent due to a mutation on a chromosome resulting from the pastoral lifestyle in both Europe and East Africa.

Then again, LaLanne didn’t eat beef either.

Oh, one last thing (to channel Colombo): The China Agricultural University is a state school under the control of the Ministry of Education. Its president is appointed by the Chinese government.

Is this a case of Chinese tax yuan at work, or is the research funded by the premiums Uncle Sam pays to those who purchase his bonds?

Probably the only worthwhile song this group ever did, but then Graham Gouldman was the one who wrote it.

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One Response to “Safe as milk”

  1. Jeffrey said

    The Chinese also claim to have the world’s fastest super computer, something disputed by non-government computer engineers in China, so I wouldn’t put too much stock in the validity of this “weird science” news.

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