A group of scientists at Oxford University have created the world’s first cow that can produce chocolate milk. The study, published in Nature Genetics, is a landmark breakthrough, representing a major advance in the world of genetically modified food.
The cow, named ‘Cocoa’ by the researchers, was created by inserting several different genes responsible for the chocolate flavouring into an embryo in culture. The researchers made use of a controversial new technique, the Facilitated Open Operon re-Location System, in modifying and inserting genes which could mimic the chocolate flavour.
“It was a complicated process,” said Dr Paul D. Oderwun, one of the key researchers. “Cocoa beans undergo a lot of processing to turn them into the chocolate we know and love. There was a significant amount of trial-and-error before we got anything approaching the right taste.”
Cows have a long-standing history with genetic modification. Researchers in 2011 produced cows’ milk containing human lysozyme, while in 2012 scientists made milk which lacked a major allergen.
Several major food companies have expressed an interest in the flavoured milk, which could be part of the answer to rising cocoa prices as well as reducing transport costs. But Oderwun is wary about commercialising the product. “Our main concern right now is whether the product is fit for consumption. We’ll be testing it on healthy humans in the near future.”