Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Prof. Joe Cummins go behind the smokescreen to expose the project which would perpetuate the intensive animal husbandry that created mad cow disease in the first place and is far from safe or ethical in terms of animal welfare.
James Robl, chief scientific officer of Hematch of Connecticut, told the New Scientist in 2004 that the US company had only created the cell lines lacking the prion gene, and denied that cloned cows would be produced for food . He said that the aim of the work was to use BSE-free cows to produce pharmaceutical products such as human antibodies, but that these cows were unlikely to end up on the dinner plate. That turned out to be a smokescreen, as we point out, there is no guarantee that hazardous experimental cloned transgenic cows will not enter the human food chain if transgenic and cloned animals are approved for human consumption [3, 4].
The project raises the question of whether it is proper science to devote such Herculean efforts to creating prionless cows, as it would merely perpetuate an intensive, industrial animal husbandry regime that created BSE in the first place. According to the UK Soil Association, which certifies organic agricultural produce , “there has never been a recorded case of BSE in an animal that was born in an organic herd where full organic management was in place throughout the animal's life.” This claim could not be refuted by subsequent investigations carried out as part of the UK government's BSE enquiry.
Prionless cows are both transgenic and cloned, and hence subject to the potential hazards and also the questionable ethics of both the transgenic and the cloning processes, regardless of whether they are intended for our dinner plate or for producing pharmaceuticals. Cloning creates massive deaths and suffering for failed foetuses and calves and also for the numerous surrogate dams required, and transgenesis in combination with cloning increases the number of cloning steps, and hence multiplies deaths and suffering.
It is not clear whether the calves still carry antibiotic resistance markers with loxP sites, the enhanced promoter from the SV40 virus, the Cre recombinase, or indeed, the diphtheria toxin A gene integrated at non-target sites in the genome. All of these dangerous genes could be subject to horizontal gene transfer and recombination, and in the process, trigger cancer (if transferred to human cells in the case of the strong viral promoter), and create and recreate viruses and bacteria that cause disease epidemics . Cre-recombinase is known to scramble genomes (see Box 1).
In conclusion cloned transgenic animals should not be approved for commercial use, nor should public research funding go to support such projects. Cloned transgenic animals are far from safe on existing evidence, and certainly not ethical in terms of animal welfare.