Pick a GMO: Dairy Cows

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The controversy about the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has dominated the press. Whether or not GMO foods are safe for human use, their production has increased over the past decade. Many countries have outright outlawed genetically modified organisms (GMOs), although others have limited their use. GMOs, on the other hand, are commonly used in Europe, the United States, and Canada. This paper would look at the mechanism and intent of creating genetically modified cows in order to increase milk production. It would also consider the environmental benefits and risks, human health and the environment, as well as any patent issues involved with such a technology. Scientists have made two breakthroughs through successful creation of a calf whose milk can be consumed by individuals suffering from intolerance of lactose. The second breakthrough is that of an animal whose milk has a high concentration of healthy fat, which is found in fish. These have been achieved by genetically altering the cows in an effort to ensure that drink and food products from them are healthier. These technological advancements have not, however, come without criticisms. Many anti-GMO Crusaders have raised issues with the safety of the GMOs’ milk. Their concerns have been aggravated by claims from Chinese scientists that they have succeeded in introducing genes from humans into 300 dairy cows with the aim of producing the same human breast milk properties in 2011 (Gray 1).
In this new research, scientists have managed to introduce a gene which breaks lactose into other sugar types that humans can easily digest. Apparently, lactose is the main source of sugar that is present in dairy products. Individuals who suffer from lactose intolerance do not have the ability to digest milk adequately and this causes them stomach problems. Therefore, researchers expect the calf to begin producing milk, which is low in lactose levels after it delivers its offspring in slightly more than two years’ time. Interestingly, the calf was named Lucks. The scientists expect to create more cows with low lactose that would new dairy products in due course. These products will hit the supermarket shelves in 5 to 10 years.
According to Dr. Zhou Huanmin, the leading scientist engaged in the research, ordinary milk, has high lactose content while genetically produced milk is expected to have reduced lactose levels or no lactose at all. People suffer lactose intolerance in various degrees. Therefore, their aim is to commercialize on that. Available statistics show that up to 5 percent of people in the United Kingdom suffer lactose intolerance. Additionally, up to 90 percent of people in some parts of Asia and Africa lack the ability to digest milk properly.
The creation of low lactose cow involves injecting genes from archaea, which are bacteria-like organisms into cow embryo cells by the use of clone Dolly the Sheep technology. This led to the creation of fourteen embryos, which were then implanted into the surrogate cows’ wombs. Out of the five calves who were born in April 2017, three tested positive to be carrying the needed genes for low lactose milk creation. However, two of them passed on within one day after birth. The remaining one was named Lucks and has been described as healthy and active. The researchers expect to conduct tests on the calf’s milk after she starts lactating to ascertain the amount of lactose that the milk has.
In another separate research, a group of researchers from Inner Mongolia University has created a cow, which is genetically modified and whose milk contains high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids. Apparently, Omega 3 fatty acids are mainly found in nuts and fish oil. They are believed to be essential for the health of humans in that they help protect us against diseases of the heart in addition to playing a role in boosting the functions of the brain. Led by Dr Guang-Peng Li, the scientists relied on cloning technology to retrieve a roundworm gene and introduce it into the embryos of a cow. The resultant genetically modified cow was then allowed to come to maturity and deliver its offspring before conducting tests on its milk.
When tests were later conducted, it was discovered that the milk has four times as much Omega 3 fatty acids when compared to ordinary cow milk. Moreover, its Omega 6 unsaturated fat, which is considered unhealthy was reduced by half. Apparently, Omega 6 unsaturated fat has long been linked to heart diseases and cancer. According to Dr Li, mammals lack the ability to make Omega 3 fatty acids naturally or even convert the unhealthy Omega 6 unsaturated fatty acids into forms that are healthier. He argued that transgenic domestic animals can produce n-3 fatty acids-enriched milk and meat and this can be an economical and efficient approach to meet the rising demand for Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (Sample 1).
However, there have been various concerns raised by the research, especially from GMO critics and animal rights campaign groups. For instance, some people have argued that genetically modifying animals has the potential to cause sufferings to the produced animals. Besides, the resultant welfare impacts can be severe and unpredictable. This is not the responsible moral direction that farming should be headed in. Going by the history of GMO research, animals have suffered unexpected costs regarding of animals born with lethal and unexpected deformities such as brain defects, arthritis, tumors and deformed limbs. Furthermore, the question of food safety associated with GM also arise. Just like any other technology, there might be unintended consequences since the process interferes with the natural pathways of biological milk production. As a result, it can have harmful effects on nutrients.
Personally, I think GMOs should be heavily regulated. While it is true that the GMO technology can provide a solution to food shortages, I firmly believe that a lot of research still needs to be carried out to ascertain their viability. The escalation of chronic ailments such as cancer, high blood pressure, and heart diseases have coincided with the growth of GMO foods. The natural biological pathways through which food is produced should never be tampered with for short term gains. This is especially given the fact that it is not easy to replace nature. When we advocate for GMOs, we are killing the natural order of things (Goodnough 1).
Genetically modified foods have various patent issues. These problems arise from ownership, bio piracy, enforcement, injustice, animal rights and terminator technology. Only a few companies own the broad patents. Additionally, biotechnology companies apply aggressive techniques in enforcing their patents, which are also favored by court decisions. In other areas, the patenting of animal genes elicits ethical and religious questions. Terminator technology implies that genes that prevent the germination of seeds are patented.
Works cited
Goodnough, Tom. “A GM breakthrough that can be tolerated: Scientists develop genetically modified cows that produce low-lactose milk.” 17 Jun. 2012. Daily Mail. Web. 13 Jul. 2017.
Gray, Richard. “Cows genetically modified to produce healthier milk.” 17 Jun. 2012. the Telegraph. Web. 13 Jul. 2017.
Sample, Ian. “GM cow designed to produce milk without an allergy-causing protein.” 1 Oct. 2012. The Guardian. Web. 13 Jul. 2017.

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