Do you view genetic modification as an essential part of our progression as a species, or an abominable experiment with potentially devastating consequences? Whatever your personal viewpoint, one sometimes has to question the reasoning behind the experiments. We have Canadian scientists inserting spider genes into goats and additionally creating “enviropigs” that have, of all things, less phosphorus in their faeces and are therefore deemed to be more environmentally friendly. We have Japanese mice that can tweet like birds (surely, this is of questionable value to humanity), and an American cat called Mr Green Genes who possesses the dubious honour of being the first fluorescent cat in the USA, thanks to the tremendous skills but bizarre imaginations of the genetic engineers.
Whilst there might be some people in the world who feel that their lives could not possibly be complete without ownership of a fluorescent cat, this type of manipulation pales into insignificance in comparison with the alarming Chinese trend of the genetic modification of the dairy cow. Not a country normally best known for its dairy product consumption, China is aiming to be up with the big players of dairy production by introducing herds of genetically modified cows that contain human genes. They have to date produced hundreds of cows with the specific purpose of producing milk that is virtually identical to human breast milk. This, to some, could be the breakthrough that we have all been waiting for. Milk specifically designed for humans, that does not cause potentially allergenic reactions amongst the millions of people who are lactose intolerant. The end, potentially, of the nutritional nonsense known as formula milk that has clogged up the sinuses, ears and intestinal systems of countless unfortunate infants whose mothers cannot, or increasingly choose not to breastfeed.
But is this type of production welcome, and one that we should embrace and encourage? I have always been intrigued by the concept of it being considered natural to drink the pasteurised milk of the wrong species of mammal past weaning age. Human weaning age is considered to be, by natural health practitioners, at approximately 3 years of age. This makes sense since it is at approximately age 3 that the human liver becomes able to manufacture cholesterol. Until this age, but not past it, a dietary source of cholesterol is essential, and the best source is unpasteurised human breast milk. In our society, very few women continue breastfeeding children of this age. It could therefore be considered that cows engineered to produce “human” milk would be a major breakthrough for the wellbeing of our rapidly expanding planetary population.
My suspicion, however, is that people would continue to drink this modified milk past their natural weaning age, and that it would be heavily promoted that they do so. However, there is an elephant in the room, and that is the well documented, but conveniently overlooked, issue of galactose. The composition of milk sugar (lactose) is one molecule of glucose and one of galactose joined together. Whilst galactose is an important nutrient for the correct development of the infant’s brain, high levels after weaning age, and into puberty and adulthood, cause us considerable difficulty. Galactose, if the liver is not functioning normally or if there is a lack of protective antioxidant capacity, can become oxidised into galactaric acid, also called mucic acid, which is insoluble and very difficult to excrete.
The retired research chemist and nutritionist Walter Last writes that the lymphatic system transports mucic acid to the mucous membranes such as the lungs, respiratory tract and sinuses, blocking their outlets until factors that irritate the mucous membranes allow the mucic acid to pass through (giving the appearance, for example, of a cold). If a person chooses a diet high in lactose, the lymphatic channels may also become congested. Ear infections, glue ear and hearing loss in children is attributed to mucic acid congestion and this is even more of a problem if the children have an inherent inability to convert galactose to glucose in the liver, such as, for example, the aborigines in Australia, whose enzyme levels for this conversion pathway are very low.
But what, if anything, does this have to do with the genetic modification of the dairy cow? My question is this: why is it that we as a species, consciously choose to continue drinking the milk of the wrong species of mammal (genetic engineering aside) past weaning age? No other mammal does this. And no other mammal cooks it first. Milk and its derivatives are considered to be a food group (largely, I am informed, as a result of massive lobbying campaigns by the collective might of the dairy industry). They are even touted as an essential health food. I am regarded as being really quite odd for having totally avoided dairy products for the past 35 years. I have been asked many questions by those concerned about my nutritional status, by far and away the most common one being “where do you get your calcium?”. I address this fully in my recent book, but suffice it to say that, contrary to popular belief, dairy products are actually a disappointingly poor source of essential bioavailable calcium.
Back to our human breast milk-producing cows; only time will tell whether this particular Chinese experiment is deemed to be successful. In the meantime, my recommendation still stands that if you are a human past age 3, dairy products, no matter what the production species, are not an essential component of a healthy diet, and may even be at the root of some undesirable health challenges.