GM goats

August 2011
“Modern man does not experience himself as part of nature but as an outside force destined to dominate and conquer it. He even talks of a battle with nature, forgetting that, if he won the battle, he would find himself on the losing side.” E. F. Schumacher
If you've been reading about the Scottish scientists who seem unaccountably keen to produce genetically-improved livestock using GM and cloning techniques, you'll be aware of the abysmal survival rate of the experimental animals at all stages of the process (See McCLONES – July 2011).

Attempts are ongoing in New Zealand to produce GM goats expressing a 'human' gene. The aim is to make goats which will be living factories producing milk containing human proteins for pharmaceutical purposes.

So far, the few surviving GM goats have turned out to be far from normal. Seventy-five per cent of them are transgender, so-called “goys”, which are females in sterile male bodies. Using hormone treatments, they will be induced to lactate at six months to see if they are producing the requisite 'human' material.

The general manager of the laboratory which created the goys explained that:
“It was inadvertent. This is something which normally happens about 10 to 15 per cent of the time in this breed of goat.”
He said the goats were transgender because of the cell line used to produce them, and had nothing to do with genetic modification.


There's an interesting, and possibly telling, statistic here. The researchers used cells from a breed of goat which is clearly defective: about 10 to 15 per cent of them routinely turn out to be malformed and sterile. After genetic transformation, the goats became 75 per cent malformed and sterile.

The scientists who created the goys claim airily that it was all pure chance: the cell line they just happened to use just happened to be the one with a tendency to cause malformation and sterility. Why would you use a cell line prone to developmental derangement for a GM experiment? Could it be that the cell line was a weakened one which was especially easy to transform?

Put another way, the more feeble the cell, the more likely it is to become genetically transformed because, if it were healthy, it would be able to reject the invading DNA.

This question has already been raised in relation to GM plants transformed to generate Bt toxins. It has emerged that the process used to create the transgenic plants inadvertently selected for poor gene-performance because the successfully-transformed ones poisoned themselves (see Bt IS TOXIC TO PLANTS – News, July 2011).

You can select cells for genetic transformation, or you can select them for health, but perhaps not both at once? If this is true, our food supply is in jeopardy.

Watch out for escalating evidence that GM crops and animals represent life-forms 'conquered' by man, and that GM is a victory over nature in which we are on the losing side.

  • Practical Action 'Small World', Issue 50, Summer 2010
  • Steffan Browning, AgResearch Transgender Goats To Be Milked, Soil & Health Association of New Zealand Inc,, 12.06.11
  • Goy? It's a girl goat in a boy goat's body, NZ Herald 13.06.11

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