Food and Technology Blog

Regulators Urged to Protect Public from Human-Cow Hybrid Milk

Posted Apr. 4, 2011 / Posted by: NBerning

For Immediate Release

Contact:

Kelly Trout, 202-222-0722, ktrout@foe.org; Nick Berning, 202-222-0748, nberning@foe.org

Regulators Urged to Protect Public from Human-Cow Hybrid Milk

Friends of the Earth responds to reports that cows engineered with human DNA are producing milk intended for human babies

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Scientists in China have mixed human and cow DNA to create genetically engineered cows that produce “humanized” cow’s milk similar to the breast milk human mothers feed their children, news reports indicated this weekend.

Friends of the Earth U.S., an environmental watchdog organization, responded by warning that milk from genetically engineered cows could harm human health and cause adverse environmental impacts. The group urged regulators in the U.S. to ensure that milk from these human-cow hybrids be kept out the U.S. food supply.

“Milk from human-cow hybrids could harm the babies who drink it, and it’s important that regulators ensure it doesn’t enter our food supply,” said Eric Hoffman, Biotechnology Policy Campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “This genetically engineered milk has not been demonstrated safe for human consumption, and existing regulations that address genetically engineered animals aren’t enough to protect us from this threat. Congress must act now to ensure that mothers don’t need to worry about whether they are feeding their children potentially harmful genetically engineered milk.”

Some genetically engineered foods have been shown to provoke allergic reactions in humans. No studies of genetically engineered milk from human-cow hybrids have yet been conducted. Genetically engineered animals could also cause unforeseen impacts if they escape confinement and reproduce, potentially contaminating other animal populations.

Friends of the Earth is part of a large coalition of watchdog and food safety groups that is pushing Congress and federal agencies to strengthen regulations addressing whether food from genetically engineered animals can enter the human food supply. Currently, the federal Food and Drug Administration regulates genetically engineered foods as “animal drugs,” which the groups maintain is inadequate to ensure they are safe for human consumption, as the research required to determine if a drug is safe differs from the research required to demonstrate food is safe. Food manufacturers are also not currently required to indicate on labels when foods are genetically engineered.

The Food and Drug Administration is currently considering whether to allow a fast-growing genetically modified salmon known as the “frankenfish” to enter the food supply without adequate safety testing, and without labeling that would inform consumers they are buying genetically engineered fish.

“Congress and regulators should require independent and comprehensive review of human, animal and environmental health safety before allowing such foods onto the market,” Hoffman said. “Unfortunately, they do not currently do so.”

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