AR-News: Scientists build BSE-proof cow
wolfcrest at hotmail.com
Thu Jan 22 19:44:14 EST 2004
Scientists build BSE-proof cow
Canadian cattlemen are skeptical
Calgary Herald; with a file from The Associated Press
Genetically enhanced cattle would have to be approved for consumption.
American scientists are trying to clone cattle genetically engineered to
resist mad cow disease in an effort to eradicate the brain wasting illness.
At least three research teams are trying to produce clones globally, with a
team in Korea producing four "mad cow- proof" calves last month, the
Biotechnology Industry Organization said Wednesday.
"This research has a lot of benefits to it scientifically, and in terms of
what we could do to further inhibit BSE from coming into Canada and the
U.S.," said Barb Glenn, director of animal biotechnology at the Washington,
D.C.-based trade group.
But Canadian beef industry officials said the costs and time commitment
involved with genetic engineering and cloning make the idea highly
improbable in practical terms.
"I would suspect the world would be totally devoid of BSE by the time this
science is ready for discussion," said Rob McNabb, assistant manager of the
Canadian Cattlemen's Association.
The American cattle industry has been locked out of export markets worth
$3.8 billion since Dec. 23, when it was revealed a Washington state Holstein
was infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.
Mad cow disease has cost Canada an estimated $2 billion in lost exports
since May, when a single case of BSE was found in Alberta.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is not conducting similar research.
That is probably a good thing, because it's wrong to rely on cloning and
genetic engineering to eliminate diseases created by man in the first place,
said Mike McBane, national co-ordinator of the Canadian Health Coalition.
"There's only one way to stop mad cow disease dead in its tracks," he said.
"It's very simple. It's called letting cows, which are herbivores, eat
Cattle are thought to contract BSE through eating feed that contains
contaminated meal made from other ruminants. Such feed was banned in 1997.
Canada has already taken effective steps to eradicate BSE by banning its
source -- contaminated feed, McNabb said.
However, research into prion-resistant animals could be worthwhile if it
sheds new light on the disease, he said.
Prions are the twisted proteins blamed for several types of brain-wasting
diseases in people and animals.
"The approach and method of their science may be more valid than their end
desire," he said.
"The impracticalities of trying to re-establish a population of cattle, be
it in North America or worldwide, are just unimaginable."
Knowing more about the mysterious brain wasting disease would be a bonus,
agreed James Reagan of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association in Denver.
"We're not in support of cloning cattle," he said. "But the more knowledge
we have on any subject, the better off we'll be on making decisions."
There's another problem with using BSE-resistant clones to repopulate beef
Specific approval from Health Canada is required before any genetically
modified animal can enter the human food chain in Canada. Currently, there
are no such approvals.
Similarly, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved beef from
cloned cattle or their offspring for food.
The Korean researchers reported success at cloning BSE-resistant calves in
the journal Nature. Their animals are genetically engineered to produce
prion proteins that resist being converted into the pathogenic form.
Scientists at Virginia Tech University started working on cloning calves
about two years ago.
They're trying to remove the DNA in cow cells that code for prion proteins.
The remaining DNA will be used to clone calves that will be genetically
unable to produce the proteins, eliminating any risk of contracting the
The American scientist could have a cloned cow born later this year or early
David Westaway, a prion expert and associate professor of molecular biology
at the University of Toronto, said the American approach is based on sound
"The potential stumbling block has nothing to do with the science," he said.
"People are leery about genetically modified products. Consumer acceptance
will be the issue."
-Politics blamed for beef delays A6
gteel at theherald.canwest.com
© Copyright 2004 Calgary Herald
"In my humble opinion, non-cooperatin with evil is as much a duty as is
cooperation with good."
"I hold flesh-food to be unsuited to our species."
Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
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