April 13, 2011
felt sculptor Stephanie Metz from the Over bred series
CBC and others reported last week on the Chinese success in engineering and cloning milk cows with human genes to express human milk proteins. Today the Chinese authorities have approved it for testing. Is this not the final straw? Oh its just China. Or is it?
Recent progress in recombinant DNA technology as well as in embryo manipulation and transfer has made the introduction of specific genes into the germline of animals relatively commonplace. With appropriate genetic constructs expression of the inserted genes in transgenic animals can be controlled in a tissue-specific and in a differentiation- specific manner; thus, it is now possible to consider alteration of the composition of milk produced by a lactating animal in any of a variety of ways. There is a growing list of foreign milk proteins that have been expressed, and one can envisage placing almost any protein gene of interest under the control of the cis-acting promoter and enhancer elements of a milk protein gene. Modification of milk composition can be extended not only to the proteins of commodity value but also, by manipulation of key metabolic enzymes, to fat, lactose, and other minerals in milk.
Here from American researchers.
The U.S. and Australia and interestingly, the Netherlands, have been researching transgenic livestock for over 20 years, including mammary gland secretions. But, as this story mentions, after all the hard work, public repudiation has prevented its fruition. That is a lot of research dollars (our money) and profits haven`t been taken. China is one of many places where that is going (to start) being done. The Netherlands food bio is actively involved in Sabre and is a key sponsor of innovative food tweaking and and wish we were all as malleable as our Chinese comrades. The scientist in charge of China's gmo bovines, Ning Li, is the Sabre coordinator for China. Expertise, decades of research and probably funding...who knows what other favours, are visible in those transgenes.
But we can't keep ordering double doubles and make milk mustaches ...can we? When is enough?
My suggestion for humanizing milk?
Lay off our cows; their genes belong first to cows or cow divas and second to farmer's and milk drinkers due to the century old traditions of breeding, nuturing and naming, continuously, said beast: it is common property. Common trust. Common interest.
Imbue milk with human kindness. That way. Not mother's milk coming out of industrial bioreactors. Not that definition of who we are. Mother's didn't give up the name of their milk...its called Mother's Milk and it belongs to women. (God would I love to be in a room with some old feminists farmers right now).
This will only happen (good milk) if there is a tradition and deep cultural acceptance of physical work and discipline to farm on human scales communities around small farms and homesteads cooperating, ecological and numerous.