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.