|Expert translation of article on children harmed by GM pharma rice trial (15/8/2006)|
We now have an expert translation by Dr Michael Melampy of the article in Spanish which reported on the impact of the Ventria GM rice pharmaceutical trial in Peru.
Transgenics: Children Already Suffer Their Effects
English translation by Michael Melampy, PhD. The Spanish original can be found at: http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6790
Two small children developed allergies after treatment with a transgenic serum. Fabrizio and Jordano are part of a group of 140 children who received a rehydration serum that contained human and plant genes. Their mothers are requesting that the Ministry of Health monitor the status of their sons.
The day that Diana Canessa Garay believed that she would lose her only baby, a friendly hand appeared in the halls of Children's Hospital. The hand belonged to a nurse who was saying that she had a remedy for eight-month old baby Fabrizio's acute diarrhea.
For the desperate 24 year old mother, it was enough to hear that the "rice serum" would stop the diarrhea for her to authorize use of the treatment. They did not explain to her that the rehydration salt was of transgenic origin and that its sale was prohibited because it was still in the experimental phase.
Because the only thing that mattered was the immediate recuperation of her baby, Diana Canessa signed a document on February 15, 2005. "They only wanted to experiment with my little baby, they tricked me," she lamented now that her son suffers the first side effects of the treatment.
Don't experiment with food
Trangenic foods are those that have been genetically manipulated in the laboratory. Luis Gomero Osorio, a specialist in transgenic foods with the Alternative Agriculture Network (RAAA), explains that genes from the same species or different species are added to the food organism in order to apparently improve its qualities.
In this manner, it is possible to produce corn with the flavor of cheese or blue tomatoes or increase the productivity of crops. Nevertheless, a large part of the international scientific community and various non-governmental organizations have warned that transgenic foods pose risks to public health.
Ivonne Yañez, representative of the Network for a Latin America without Transgenics, explains that when proteins modified by human intervention are introduced in the food chain, they can set free allergies and other ailments in persons who have consumed these foods.
Rice with human genes
The union of genes from the same species (generally in plants) is a common practice in foreign countries, particularly in the U.S. Nevertheless, the union of different species such as a plant and a human is an aberration according to Gomero. Despite this, the U.S. pharmaceutical company, Ventria Biocience, completed such a union in rice. The rice was inoculated with two human proteins that were then isolated in order to develop a rehydration solution (see diagram). The goal is to obtain a serum that helps to slow acute diarrhea and dehydration.
The commercialization of the serum has been rejected in the U.S. The governmental agency that oversees the safety of medicines (the Food and Drug Administration, FDA) has said no to Ventria's request to commercialize the serum on three occasions.
Despite this history, the pharmaceutical company decided to run a test on 140 Third World children. And what better place to do the test than in Peru where no laws exist to control biogenetics and where the Ministry of Health itself gives authorization?
The health centers selected for the test were the Children's Hospital in Lima and the Trujillo Hospital.
According to Nelly Zavaleta, director of the study in Peru, the experiment was successful in that the cases of diarrhea were controlled immediately. Nevertheless, Zavaleta and the minister of health, Pilar Mazzetti, declined to use the word "transgenics." They prefer to say that the serum has a transgenic "origin." And what is the difference? Another expert in the field has refuted this difference, stating that the serum is a transgenic with all of its letters "because its genes have been altered."
Test for children
Allergies are the first side effects of the consumption of transgenic foods. Fabrizio, who now is two, suffers them. "After they gave him the serum, my baby became sickly and delicate. Now he is allergic to everything, to chocolate, mandarin oranges. I don't know what will happen to him later. The Ministry of Health has to monitor his health," laments Diana. Another young mother, Johana Sanchez Turreate, also fears for the life of her three year old son, Jordano, who also has developed allergies after receiving the serum.
Executive branch must monitor the law
Just as predicted several days ago by the Association for Human Rights (Aprodeh), on Wednesday the full Congress of the Republic approved the controversial General Law for the Development of Biotechnology. According to the Peruvian Association of Consumers (Aspec) this law must be monitored by the executive branch of the government or it will become an open door for the indiscriminate influx into our markets of transgenic foods that are produced on a large scale in foreign countries, especially the U.S.
The Peruvian Medical Association adopted the same position. This union of specialists was the organization that denounced the scandal involving the experimentation with the 140 Peruvian children. The case is being investigated by the Attorney General's Office of Lima, headed by Cesar de los Rios.
There can be many side effects in the long run. Children who have consumed this serum may suffer from diseases such as alzheimer's since the altered protein in the serum may cause an amyloid substance to be deposited in neurons, altering their function. It may also cause pulmonary fibrosis since the elasticity of the altered protein may change and affect the elasticity of the lung.
Children are exposed to many degenerative d