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Race to Bioengineer Milk

Please consider Made Without Humans or Cows: Inside the Race to Bioengineer Milk.

From Silicon Valley to Switzerland, hundreds of millions of dollars are being pumped into a new technology to produce “real milk” - containing identical casein and whey proteins to the genuine article - but without any humans, cows or other animals involved at all.

There is a lot at stake. The global dairy industry was worth $413bn in 2017 while the market for infant formula is expected to top $70bn this year, according to Save the Children.

From animal cruelty on factory farms to deforestation and a rising portion of the emissions linked to climate change, raising cattle to produce milk is facing a growing reputational challenge.

“If you see how cows are treated in the milking process… from a moral standpoint it's appalling to most people,” says Niccolo Manzoni, founding partner at Five Seasons Ventures, an agricultural technology fund based in Paris.

A study published by the World Health Organisation just last week involving almost 30,000 children across 16 countries suggested breast-feeding has a “protective effect” in staving off fat tissue. Bottle-fed babies, the study found, are 25pc more likely to end up obese.

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Corporate giants such as US-based DowDuPont, BASF, Nestle, as well as start-ups such as Sugarlogix, Gnubiotics Sciences and Jennewein Biotechnologie are busy pouring money into lab research. They are developing products that are very similar to human milk, a complex hybrid of over 1000 proteins and a unique ingredient called human milk oligosaccharide (HMO).

Udderless Future?

An udderless future is eventually in the cards. But even if scientists perfect the technology, how far off is public acceptance?

Farmers will push to ban it. That's for sure.

What about labeling? Using the term "milk" for such products will likely be restricted.

Would you drink bioengineered milk?

Mike "Mish" Shedlock