Opponents to genetic modification talk about ‘frankenfood’.
Those with more open minds see the health and financial opportunities in farmaceuticals.
New Zealand scientists have genetically engineered cows to produce milk that can treat a number of human diseases.
Cloning techniques have been adopted in the genetic modification of animals, a field looking to alter cows’ milk to produce pharmaceuticals in an application known as “biopharming”.
Crown Research Institute AgResearch says it has been the pioneer in transferring from mice to cows the concept of changing the composition of milk. . . .
AgResearch has several “proof-of-concept” cows which could produce milk with human proteins that could treat human diseases. Recently, the research has extended to production of therapeutic antibodies in goatsmilk.
Touted by proponents as the next Green Revolution to help feed the world, and labelled “frankenfood” by critics, genetic modification has generated both interest and controversy. . .
Of course there are risks, as there are with the development of conventional pharmaceuticals, but there is also the potential for breakthroughs in health treatments, pest and disease resistance and improved nutrition.
Overseas GM has already been used to develop insect resistant and herbicide tolerant crops, tomatoes with more antioxidants, canola oil which yields low-cholesterol oil, rice which makes vitamin A, cassava which produces more protein and lower caffeine coffee.
In New Zealand research includes:
Improved grassPastoral Genomics, a New Zealand GM research consortium, is developing a genetically modified grass to have at least 25 per cent more leaf mass, more protein for livestock and improved drought resistance, alongside other aims. The scientists have begun trials overseas.
Wasp-killing bacteria The Ministry for the Environment says GM is being investigated as a potential tool for pest control, specifically “research to genetically modify bacteria from the gut of wasps to produce a toxin that could kill wasp species”.
As with any new developments, a cautious approach is sensible.
But we shouldn’t close our minds, laboratory doors and paddocks to GM and the health, nutritional and financial reward that could come from it.