Here’s a story that once again begs the question: SHOULD WE MESS WITH MOTHER NATURE?
Researchers at Texas A & M have genetically engineered a goat so that her milk contains the malaria vaccine.
“Through genetic engineering, this goat could be the golden goose when it comes to preventing malaria in third world countries. A disease that kills a child in Africa every minute according to the World Health Organization.”
Let’s review the story of the Golden Goose:
The hero is the youngest of three brothers, given the nickname Simpleton. His eldest brother is sent into the forest to chop wood, fortified with a rich cake and a bottle of wine. He meets a little gray man who begs a morsel to eat and a swallow of ale but is rebuffed. The eldest brother meets an accident and is taken home. The second brother meets a similar fate. Simpleton, sent out with a biscuit cooked in the ashes of the hearth and soured beer, is generous with the little old man and is rewarded with a golden goose. The goose has been discovered within the roots of the tree chosen by the little gray man and felled by Simpleton.
With the goose under his arm, Simpleton heads for an inn, where, as soon as his back is turned, the innkeeper’s daughter attempts to pluck just one of the feathers of pure gold, and is stuck fast. Her sister, coming to help her, is stuck fast too. And the youngest, determined not to be left out of the riches, is stuck to the second. Simpleton makes his way to the castle, and each person who attempts to interfere is joined to the unwilling parade: the parson, his sexton, and two laborers.
In the castle lives the king with the Princess who has never laughed. But the despondent Princess, sitting by the window and glimpsing the parade staggering after Simpleton and his golden goose, laughs until she cries. Some versions include an additional three trials. Dummling succeeds in all with the help of his little gray friend and finally wins the princess, living happily ever after.
I am not seeing parallels between this classic fable and the deaths associated with malaria or the consequences of genetic engineering.
Of course, we want to save children’s lives, and that is the motivation behind such research. KBTX.com reports:
“This project is one of the most interesting that we’ve been involved with because it has so much potential world wide,” said Texas A&M researcher Charles Long…
“What you’d have is an animal that could be in any village around the world and all natives would have to do is drink some of that milk and be immunized against malaria,” said Long…
“What we have to do is milk the goat, purify the protein, then we’d have to do all kinds of clinical testing and safety testing. Just like as if we were to take any drug and go to market with it,” said Westhusin.
Step number one will be waiting for this motherly goat to give birth, which will happen in the next week. That’s when testing on the milk will intensify and the offspring checked to see if they carry on the gene that carries on the vaccine.
Is this truly easier (or cheaper) than simply vaccinating children in malaria prone regions, as well as distribute mosquito nets? How about stopping deforestation that increases malaria by 48 percent?
Who’s to say they will consume enough milk to be adequately protected, especially during drought or impoverished situations?
Many of these regions, although experience famine, have rejected previous donations of GMO food aid, even though people were starving to death. How would these same governments react to goats with malaria vaccine milk? I wouldn’t want my kids drinking it.
Genetic engineering scares me. When combined with natural evolution, what happens when these new organisms breed with other genetically engineered organisms or their natural brethren? We cannot foresee the consequences.