Genetically modified livestock

Genetic modification (GM) can be done for any kind of organism. In theory, at least.

GM is already being used for crops, sometimes commercially, sometimes sparking controversy. GeneWatch UK describes GM techniques for animals. With more agricultural focus, the British Society of Animal Science (BSAS) describes GM techniques for livestock.

GM livestock aren’t yet being reared commercially but that future may come. My fellow blogger Eideard tells us about GM cows (Bos primigenius) which produce hypoallergenic milk. James Gallagher at the BBC tells us more about these GM cows.

These GM cows’ milk lacks a protein called beta-lactuglobin which ordinary cows’ milk contains. Some babies and young children, even some adults, are allergic to beta-lactuglobin. Human milk doesn’t contain beta-lactuglobin. It’s one of the reasons why mothers are told that ‘breast is best’.

This is part of the bigger picture of cow’s milk allergy (CMA) in humans. CMA isn’t to be confused with lactose intolerance, which is more prevalent in some ethnic groups than others, and which becomes more prevalent as people age.

Some people are excited about the GM cows making milk without beta-lactuglobin. But the Growers Together Buying Group (GTBG) says that there may be a backlash against GM livestock.

Debate about GM livestock on the farm hasn’t yet become a big news story but it’s beginning.


About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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4 Responses to Genetically modified livestock

  1. eideard says:

    I realize consistency in logic isn’t always rated a useful trait; but, fear of GM cows isn’t especially different from fear of cloned cows in the eyes of science. Yet the latter are usual enough in both dairy and ranching here in the States as to be commonplace. It’s how positive traits become widespread soonest. For years, now.

    • argylesock says:

      You’ve prompted me towards a future blog post about livestock cloning. Thanks!

      Anyway yes, I notice too much emotion and anthropomorphism in many people’s opinions about livestock. It’s come up on WP since I started blogging here. One of my aims in writing ‘Science on the Land’ is to encourage thought. Not to put pressure on people, of course, but to enable people to make up their own minds.

  2. Pingback: Genetically modified salmon | Science on the Land

  3. Pingback: Biotechnology for livestock | Science on the Land

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