In Udder News, UVM Spawns a GE Cow | Agriculture | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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In Udder News, UVM Spawns a GE Cow

Local Matters


Published May 4, 2005 at 4:00 p.m.

Can scientists design a better "Bossy?" It depends on how you view the use of biotechnology in agriculture.

Some dairy farmers welcome the idea of a milker made to resist a form of mastitis -- a painful udder infection that is difficult to control with antibiotics. David Kerr, an assistant professor of animal sciences at UVM, developed the modified gene that enables cows to produce an enzyme, lysostaphin, which appears to ward off the infection. The modified gene was sent to collaborating researchers in Maryland, who inserted it into the embryos of Jersey cows. So far, five transgenic cows and one bull have been produced. All show significant resistance to the mastitis-causing bacteria.

Incidents of mastitis have grown apace with technological advances in the dairy industry; reportedly, the infection spreads from cow to cow through milking machines. According to a UVM press release, the disease costs dairy farmers about $2 billion a year in discarded milk, antibiotics, vet fees and other related expenses.

Thus far, milk from GE cows hasn't been approved for human consumption. Whether Vermont's dairy farmers and milk consumers embrace the idea of genetically altered cows remains to be seen.