Thursday, March 17, 2011

Female Goats Trapped in Sterile Male Bodies: Goys

Photo courtesy: Cuvée Corner / CC via TreeHugger

As you probably already know, male goats are called bucks or billies and female goats are called does or nannies. Contrary to popular belief, goats are very clean animals with terrific personalities. However, the old cobbler about people who had an offensive body odour smelling like "an old billie goat" is still used today.

But, now, thanks to science we have another modified species with a new "scientific" name and purpose. The results of a strange genetic modification have given rise to a new term altogether, "goys" -- transgender goats which are essentially females in male bodies. Scientists working for a genetic research institute in New Zealand have begun breeding for these transgender goats, equipped with full male anatomy, in order to see if the milk they produce will bear similarities with the milk produced by human women.

Oh goy, this can't be good.

According to Steffan Browning, an official from New Zealand's Soil and Health Department who recently toured the facility, operated by AgResearch, around 75% of the goats bred there are females trapped in the bodies of sterile males. Browning raised concerns about the work being done there, which includes various bioengineering experiments and pharmacological studies -- namely that the transgender modifications could find their way into the broader goat gene pool or even on to other species.

He also had issues with the health and safety of the animals found there, “Although grateful to AgResearch for hosting GE Free NZ President Claire Bleakley and myself for a tour of the AgResearch Ruakura GE animal facility, we were concerned at the continued animal welfare issues and the level of contaminated surface water that was draining off the experimental property.”

In fact, he wants to see the facility closed immediately.

On the other hand, AgResearch general manager Dr. Jimmy Suttie apparently sees nothing wrong with the work he and his bio-engineering colleagues are up to. He says that transgender goats are born naturally from time to time -- it just so happens that they've decided to breed for this trait specifically in order to test out the milk they produce for traces of human protein. That's right, they're milking billy goats in hopes that human-like milk will come out them.

"We take animal ethics very, very seriously at AgResearch," says Dr. Suttie, in a report from The New Zealand Herald. All these experiments are supervised by vets and the animal ethics committee, and they have given us no concerns at all."

Oddly enough, this isn't the first time bioscience has attempted to get other animals to make milk with human-like proteins. Researchers working with cows in China recently modified bovine genes to produce substances which contain many nutrients found in breast-milk vital to the development of healthy immune systems.

While the mucking around with the genes of female animals to produce milk designed for humans is mad-science-y enough, creating a breed of female goats trapped in the bodies of males capable of lactating is all sorts of wrong.

Via TreeHugger

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