It is well known that breast milk is best for infants. Aiming to make milk formula more like human milk, the biotechnology industry has tried engineering crops or animals to produce human breast milk protein. University of California researchers have modified rice plants to carry a human gene for the milk enzyme, lactoferrin. This enzyme is needed by infants to use iron efficiently and fight infection. The formula showed positive results in animal studies. Interestingly, FDA’s current regulations are designed to only cover biotech plants that carry drugs and pesticides. The Royal Society Working Group recently issued a report on novel foods, including GM foods, and found no reason to suspect the safety of GM foods. Despite this, the report also stated there was concern that “genetic modification might lead to unpredicted and harmful changes in the nutritional status of the food”. It remains to be seen how consumers and FDA will react to these developments and how it will affect development of improved products, such as infant formula.
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