Scientists in China have successfully introduced human genes into 300 dairy cows to produce milk with the same properties as breast milk.

The new milk, which has the backing of a leading biotechnology company, will be marketed as offering an alternative to human breast milk and formula milk.

The researchers, who used cloning technology to produce the milk, anticipate another decade or so of research is needed before consumers can buy the product from shops and supermarkets.

Writing in the scientific peer-reviewed journal Public Library of Science One, lead scientist Professor Ning Li insisted the milk will be as safe to drink as milk from ordinary cows, although he admitted it "tastes stronger than ordinary milk.

China leads the world in genetically modified research projects and this move is bound to inflame the debate on GM foods.

Concerns have already been raised on an animal welfare level. A spokesperson for the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals said the organisation was "extremely concerned" about how the GM cows had been produced.

She said: "Offspring of cloned animals often suffer health and welfare problems, so this would be a grave concern.

"Why do we need this milk - what is it giving us that we haven't already got."

Posted by Penny Hosie on 3.4.11 Comment on this article by sending it to: penny.hosie@pavpub.com