© Agence France-PresseChinese scientists say human breast milk produced by cows is more nutritious than normal milk.
  • Scientists create breast milk produced by cows
  • Special cow herd created with human genes
  • Expected to hit supermarkets in three years
Chinese scientists have genetically modified dairy cows to produce human breast milk, and hope to be selling it in supermarkets within three years.

The milk produced by the transgenic cows is identical to the human variety, with the same immune-boosting and antibacterial qualities as breast milk, scientists at China's Agricultural University in Beijing said.

The transgenic herd of 300 was bred by inserting human genes into cloned cow embryos which were then implanted into surrogate cows, Sky News reported.

The technology used was similar to that used to produce Dolly the sheep, the first mammal to be cloned by scientists, in Scotland.

The milk is still undergoing safety tests, but with government permission will be sold to consumers as a more nutritious dairy drink than cow's milk.

Workers at the university's dairy farm have already tasted the milk - and said it is sweeter and stronger than the bovine variety.

"It's good," said worker Jiang Yao. "It's better for you because it's genetically modified."

The scientists have also produced animals that are resistant to mad cow disease, as well as beef cattle that are genetically modified to produce more nutritious meat.

The director of the research project, Professor Li Ning, said Western concerns about the ethics of genetic modification are misplaced.

"There are 1.5 billion people in the world who don't get enough to eat," he said.

"It's our duty to develop science and technology, not to hold it back. We need to feed people first, before we consider ideals and convictions."

Comment: So the development of technology trumps "ideals and convictions"? Perhaps Professor LI Ning should consider the overall effects such as the calves who need cows milk, humans, who don't require milk above the age of six months and the consequences of genetic modification in general? Maybe this is little more than hubris on the part of the scientific community - one playing the role of a god to the detriment of all.

"We need to feed people first, before we consider ideals and convictions."

In contrast to Europe, China has eagerly embraced genetically modified food.

GM cooking oil, papayas, tomatoes and potatoes are already widely available.

Insect-resistant rice and corn modified to help pigs absorb more nutrients were both recently approved by the government.