GENETICALLY modified cows, able to produce low-lactose milk, have been created by scientists in a GM breakthrough that could help millions who suffer from intolerances.The development was made after scientists implanted genes into cells from cow embryos in a technique previously used to create Dolly the sheep.In the UK, around one in 20 people are lactose intolerant, but in other parts of the world and in some places in Asia up to 90 per cent of the population suffer from the condition. And the success of the groundbreaking project could help those who lack the ability to digest milk.Dr Zhou Huanmin, a director at Inner Mongolia University where the cow was created, told: “Ordinary milk contains lactose, while milk produced by our modified cow will have relatively low content of lactose, or even have no lactose. Most people suffer the lactose intolerance in varying degree. We are attempting to breed a dairy cow that produce low lactose milk for supplying the market. We hope to commercialise it in the future.”The scientists created 14 different embryos, and after implanting them into the wombs of surrogate cows, three calfs were born in April who were able to carry the low-lactose genes, although two died almost immediately. The surviving calf - named Lucks by researchers - is anticipated to begin producing the low-lactose milk in about two years after it is able to give birth itself. Despite the apparent success of the project and the benefits to those suffering from intolerances, however, the move has intensified the debate surrounding the safety and ethics of Genetically Modified food.–DM Campaigners have said GM research causes unnecessary suffering to animals and called for it to be stopped. Wendy Higgins, from the Humane Society International, told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘This simply isn’t a morally responsible direction for farming to be heading in.’The latest development in GM technology is just one of a series that could alter the make-up of the food we eat.Last April, scientists bred 300 cattle that were given human genes to make their milk contain the same nutrients and fat content as breast milk in the hope that the product could offer mothers an alternative to conventional infant formula.Prof Ning Li, who led the research at the China Agricultural University, said the milk they produce would be as safe as ordinary cows’ milk. Once again, though, the GM research was criticised by campaigners against the use of GM technology who said the creation of GM cattle was bad for animal welfare.In two experiments by the Chinese at the time in which 42 GM calves were born, just 26 survived. Ten died soon after birth and six died within six months.A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals said: ‘Offspring of cloned animals often suffer health and welfare problems, so this would be a grave concern. Why do we need this milk – what is it giving us that we haven’t already got?’Professor Keith Campbell, a biologist at Nottingham University and a member of the team that cloned Dolly the sheep in 1996, said GM animals were not a threat to health unless scientists deliberately gave them a gene that made their milk toxic.‘Genetically modified food, if done correctly, can provide huge benefit for consumers in terms of producing better products,’ he said.

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 18-Jun-2012 here.