Meet Daisy the Calf: The Newest Member of the GMO Family

Cow in a Fieldby Ashley M. Galloway, MS, RD

Approximately 2-3% of U.S. infants suffer from milk allergies caused by beta-lacto globulin (BLG), a component of whey protein present in cow’s milk. If breastfeeding isn’t an option, this can be a problem because families must rely on formula, the majority of which are milk-based, to feed their child. Although most of these infants will outgrow their allergies within several years, the symptoms are painful for the infant and families report this situation to cause stress within the home.

However, a team from New Zealand may have created an answer for these babies. AgResearch has recently genetically modified a single, tailless cow to produce hypoallergenic milk which contains virtually no BLG (the taillessness was said to be the cause of a rare genetic mutation). They also found the milk to contain double the amount of casein, an additional protein which typically accounts for about 80% of all proteins in traditional milk, and aids in protein synthesis. Some experts speculate that this additional amount of casein may be very beneficial for muscle development, while others find it to be detrimental to long term health.

Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, studied the effects of a high casein diet in rats and found this diet to promote tumor growth when exposed to carcinogens (namely, Aflatoxin, a potent carcinogen). What’s even more interesting is that once the amount of casein in the diet was decreased, the size of the tumor decreased as well. It’s important to note here that casein wasn’t seen to initiate cancer and tumor development; rather, it promotes the growth of an already existing set of mutated cells.

The term GMO has regained importance in the media lately. Genetically modified foods hit the market in the early nineties, causing an initial uproar comprised of public fear and disapproval due to the lack of sound evidence demonstrating long term safety. Within several years, public outcries faded, and have now recently taken an upward swing again with the demand to at least label GMO foods. With all the uncertainty surrounding GMO safety, consumers report that they deserve the right to choose whether or not to eat them; hence the need for labeling.

However, Monsanto, a multinational agricultural biotech corporation and leading producer of genetically modified seeds, has spent millions to prevent labeling laws and statewide bans of GMO foods. For a company to be so confident in the safety of their product, why are they so opposed to labeling? Consumers already have a bad taste in their mouth over the term “GMO” and labeling may drastically hurt their sales.

But back to Miss Daisy. Perhaps her milk is the short term answer to conveniently ending the BLG allergy of this small population of infants. But what about the possible long term effects? Luckily, AgResearch states that this milk will not be sold to consumers until further studies on safety have been completed. Daisy’s milk extraction was hormonally induced, due to her young age, so researchers need to first be sure that Daisy can produce this milk on her own, as well as produce offspring to do the same. In the meantime, moms can search out local milk banks which provide natural and nutritional breast milk for those who are unable to breastfeed.

For more information on the casein study, refer to Dr. Campbell’s book, The China Study, for the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted.

Ashley Galloway MS, RD is the blogger behind The Fresh Beet. She aims to inspire others to get creative in the kitchen while adding a nutritious twist to dishes. Also found on her blog are restaurant reviews to give a taste of what her local community has to offer, as well as tips to make healthier choices while dining out. Lastly, from time to time The Fresh Beet discusses nutrition in the news, keeping up with some of the food and health issues in our country.

Trackbacks