Monday, July 30, 2007

Genetic Engineering Goats Plus Humans

In response to an article in today's New York Times, I sent this letter to the editor:


One proposed genetically engineered product awaiting federal rules is anti-bacterial goat milk, made by splicing the human gene that creates the anti-bacterial protein found in human tears and milk into a goat. ("Without US Rules, Biotech Food Lacks Investors," July 30)

But if we overuse this anti-bacterial protein by putting it in milk, bacteria will evolve a resistance to it, just as our general overuse of antibiotics has caused drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis and E coli to evolve. As a result, humans will permanently be more vulnerable to infection.

This is a particularly dangerous example of the short-sightedness that is typical of the biotech industry. One of the most popular genetically engineered crops, Roundup Ready soybeans, have led to such massive use of the herbicide Roundup that weeds have evolved that are resistant to it.

And consider the ethical issues involved in using human genes in farm animals. This milk would not sell very well if it had to be labeled honestly: "produced by animals that are genetically part goat and part human."

Charles Siegel


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