Cloned Cows and a Franken - Wedding!
This story was releases mid-summer of this year. It looks at cloning cows and raises some disturbing ethical issues for the future of farming.
Franken - Wedding this October!
Join NW RAGE as we for a public wedding ceremony. Steven Byrd, CEO of $afeway and Betty the Giant Ear of Biotech Corn will tie the not on Wednesday October the 30th. All are welcome. Proper wedding attire encouraged, but don't let that keep you away. Call us for more information. 503-239-6841
Giant Franken Wedding
Llyod Center Safeway - 1100 NE Broadway
11:00am - 1:00pm
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TITLE: Scientists, Breeders, Ethicists and Regulators ponder milk from
SOURCE: The Chicago Tribune, USA
DATE: July 29, 2002
------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------
Scientists, Breeders, Ethicists and Regulators ponder milk from cloned cows
"These are all cloned from the same cow," said dairy herdsman John Kemper,
picking out seven from the dozen or so less biologically significant cows
moseying around the barnyard. Like six of their fellow clones being milked
in the barn and four other cows cloned from a different ancestor at the
University of Connecticut, the creatures are big; they have recently given
birth, and to the increasing interest of federal regulators, they are
Now, questions are starting to be asked about whether it can be sold like
other milk on the market, a topic captivating interested parties from
cloning scientists and the dairy industry to the U.S. Food and Drug
Academics are testing the clones' milk to make sure it has all the right
components and in the right quantities and finding that it's pretty much
like any other milk.
Even so, it is all being destroyed.
But it is a lot of milk, said scientists at Infigen Inc., the private
Wisconsin biotech and breeding firm that produced 18 of the animals three
It's the same at the University of Connecticut, where a slightly different
method used the same year cloned Amy, Betty, Cathy and Daisy from an aging
dairy cow named Aspen, a champ who could produce 100 pounds of milk a day
in her prime.
That translates to about 11.5 gallons a day or more than 4,000 gallons a
year, triple the national average. The average production per dairy cow in
the U.S. is 3.9 gallons of milk per day.
"It became evident to us in 2000 that this time, these types of clones may
become commercial," said an FDA official who asked not to be identified
before a report on the milk's safety is released. Expected as early as next
month, the FDA-commissioned report not only will open public discussion
about the safety of milk from cloned cows, but also will delve into other
issues born of the collision between genetics research and food production.
Providing data and analysis for that report are cloned-milk studies from
the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Utah State University.
Making a definitive statement about safety will be difficult, said John
Lucey, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin who is
studying the milk.
He pointed out that milk is a mixture of some 100,000 individual components.
"There are so many elements in milk that you can never say never," Lucey
said. "I think the FDA didn't seem very sure about what it is that they
should do or not do. It's a very unique, emerging situation for them."
Those wary of cloning dairy cows--and that includes the dairy industry--
remember the public outcry in the 1980s when bovine growth hormone was
injected into diary cows to boost their milk production. Cloning adds a new
wrinkle to that, and dairy promoters fear consumers will see the new beasts
as Frankencow monsters, writes the Tribune.
"Milk has enormous cultural symbolic value. This is the first primordial
food that people eat, and we don't like people messing with it," said Paul
Wolpe, a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Center for
Bioethics. "There has not yet been a single cloned mammal that has yet been
alive long enough to have lived out a natural life span for that animal. We
can't underestimate the unanswered questions about cloning."
Theoretically, their milk should be exactly the same as milk from the cow
from which they were cloned, milk known to be safe.
"So far it has been not too exciting. It looks pretty similar," Lucey said.
The information from his study will be submitted for peer review later this
In the meantime, agricultural researchers see a future in such animals, and
the FDA-commissioned study comes at a time when biotechnology is at the
forefront of food policy debates. Genetic manipulation of plants has been
commonplace for years. Now, regulators say science and agribusiness are
poised to make comparable advances with animals.
Proponents say herd sizes could be reduced while production stays level,
saving dairy producers millions in feed costs. But scientists add the
ultimate aim of current cloning research is cows with specific properties
spliced into their genes--such as vaccines or human growth hormones--which
could then be reproduced in their milk.
Existing clones have no modified genes. Rather, they are exact genetic
copies of cows chosen for their extraordinary ability to produce milk.
But while production is short of ultimate research goals, the clones'
prolificacy does give them commercial appeal, said Xiangzhong "Jerry" Yang,
head of the Biotech Center at U. Conn.'s Transgenic Animal Facility.
"Certainly, in agriculture, we are duplicating the elite cows, the cows
that produce a lot of milk or that have some other desirable quality," Yang
said. "This wouldn't be a day-to-day technology for all farms, and you are
certainly not expecting to have all clones in one farm.
"But you can reduce the size of the herd, or you can have the same size
herd but with twice the amount . . . of production."
Even if their milk is not approved for human consumption, the clones could
benefit dairy breeders, industry experts believe.
Artificial reproduction techniques have been used in the dairy industry for
decades, from 30-year-old artificial insemination techniques to the
transfer of fertilized embryos into surrogate mothers beginning in the late
More recently, cloning techniques like that used to produce Dolly the sheep
have improved from a 1 in 300 chance of conception to about 1 in 10, with
no apparent side effects among the surviving clones.
Unlike Dolly and earlier clones, however, recent cloning has been the
product of a realization that any cell, not just embryonic cells, can
provide genetic information for copy.
A skin cell, for instance, can be removed from an adult donor and then
starved of nutrients until it ceases dividing. The cell's nucleus, with its
genetic material inside, is then sucked out and injected into an awaiting
egg cell whose own nucleus has been removed. A zap of electricity
reactivates the development process, which continues until the
reconstructed egg reaches the embryo stage, when it is implanted into a
surrogate mother. If all goes well from then on, the clone grows to term,
according to the Tribune.
The process has been successful enough that wealthy farmers already have
had champion dairy cows and prize bulls cloned for breeding projects.
Among them is Westlynn Tom Dee, a 14-year-old champion Guernsey cow owned
by Clark and Joy Vilter.
In her prime, she produced 26,000 pounds of milk a year and, thanks to her
size, bone structure and coloration, was a grand champion among Guernsey
cows at the World Dairy Exposition competition four years in a row, the
only Guernsey ever to have accomplished that.
Even better, she was a champion genetically. Her daughters, who aren't
clones, also made exposition herds and were all named in the top of their
classes at other competitions.
Already the star of the Vilter's suburban Milwaukee show farm, Westlynn Tom
Dee made more for the couple through the embryos she produced for sale to
other breeders--thousands of them over the years--than she ever brought
them through milk production or competition winnings.
"It was like hitting the lottery," Clark Vilter said. "The original
Westlynn Tom Dee is a once-in-a-lifetime cow."
Only now, he amended, she may be a twice-in-a-lifetime cow.
In a shed across the Vilters' tidy barnyard stands Westlynn Tom Dee II, a 4-
month-old calf Infigen Inc. cloned from the original. She shares her
mother's size and demeanor, even compared with a genetic half-sister, Royal
Dee Debonaire, who was produced through embryonic transfer.
Besides her obvious edge when it comes to cattle competitions, the Vilters
hope Tom Dee II will have her mother's prowess when it comes to breeding.
"What's so exciting about this clone is, Westlynn Tom Dee stopped giving us
embryos about a year ago," Clark Vilter said.
"Now we have the clone to start all over again."
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