Wednesday

High Protein Milk?? Milk from Genetically Modified Cows

I wrote this article for my course in cell and molecular biology, and thought it opened up highly controversial points of view...

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)

A genetically modified organism (GMO) is one which has an altered genetic makeup. This change is usually produced by the addition of various genes containing information for important traits.

Organism: Cow

How cows are modified: GM cows contain two additional genes for two different proteins, beta and kappa casein. Additional casein genes were first added to the cow skin cells. The nucleus of the skin cells was then fused with cow eggs and the resulting cloned embryos were implanted in the cows.

Purpose: The milk produced by these cows has up to 20% more beta casein and has double the amount of kappa casein as the milk produced by a normal cow.

Benefits: Casein in the most important component of cheese. Milk from GM cows produces more cheese or yogurt for the same volume of milk. Hence, it is supported by cheese makers. Also, farmers are paid based on the casein content of milk, and so use of GM cows is also supported by farmers. Dairy cattle breeders also support the use of genetically modified cows. Other advocates for GM cows are dairy manufacturers for the ice cream industry as increased casein content makes ice cream creamier.

Disadvantages: A major concern regarding the use of GM is that it may cause resistance to broad spectrum antibiotics. This is because many of the plasmids used to carry genetic information also carry genes for antibiotic resistance. This raises questions about the transmission of antibiotic resistance to consumers. Genetic Modification has raised many questions about bio-ethics. Many opponents of GM claim that genetic modification will result in “genetic pollution”: Once a GM organism is introduced into the environment, it cannot be recalled. Also, a genetically modified organism can breed with non-genetically modified organisms causing a contamination of organisms occurring naturally. Also, due to the recent inception of recombinant technology, the long term effects of using these organisms have not been verified. The use of GM cows has also raised targeted questions about the possible abuse of animals. Higher demand on high protein milk, they claim, will result in further exploitation of cows.

Opposed by: Many environmentalists believe that the introduction of genetically modified organisms causes “genetic contamination” (Greenpeace Organization) Many religious people/ theological societies oppose the use of genetically modified organisms claiming it is against the will of God. Many animal welfare groups also oppose GM claiming it poses a threat to animal health.


Some things I want to add:
It is not mandatory for manufacturers to label food as Genetically Modified. The "Organic" label only means that no chemicals or artificial hormones were used, not that the genes were not altered.

I am amazed at the absolute lack of mercy from the huge bio-tech firms holding patents over the heads of poor farmers. Indian farmers are at the bottom of the economic ladder. Using science to bury them deeper into poverty is unconscionable. Why am I saying this? Huge bio-tech firms genetically modify seeds to make them more nutritious and to increase yields. Now what can be bad about that? Well, in order to continue making money from their "projects", they patent the seeds, and then they make the seeds sterile. This means that farmers cannot use the GM plant seeds to grow new plants. They have to pay huge amounts to purchase seeds each year. The larger yield results in the lower price of the crop. Farmers are paying more and earning less. Most of us from India would have read about farmers committing suicide in the newspapers. Now, we read about whole entire villages being placed for sale by farmers. Don't believe me? Read the following articles:
http://www.countercurrents.org/gl-sharma130206.htm
http://www.focusweb.org/india/content/view/840/26/
http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2305/stories/20060324002304300.htm

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