Rice made with human genes: GM menace or saviour? (3/6/2007)

See also: Drugs in Rice Not Approved by FDA, Will Likely Contaminate Foods http://centerforfoodsafety.org/VentriaPR4_24_07.cfm


Rice made with human genes: GM menace or saviour?
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
Independent on Sunday, 3 June 2007

Rice containing human genes is being grown commercially for the first time, in a dramatic application of genetic modification. The highly controversial development - which environmentalists say bears out their charge that the technology is creating "Frankenstein Foods" - is also likely to open the door to a new generation of GM crops.

The rice, which has been called "the Holy Grail" by GM enthusiasts, has been modified to grow two proteins found in human breast milk. It is produced by the California-based Ventria Biosciences, which says that it wants to use them in baby milk and rehydration drinks to fight the severe diarrhoea that kills some two million small children in the Third World every year. Critics dismiss this as window-dressing, citing a US government disclosure that the proteins will be used in "yoghurts" and "granola bars".

Apart from its use of human genes, the rice heralds a new type of crop modified to grow drugs, a process dubbed "pharming". This could lead to people who should not be exposed to the drugs unwittingly eating them in their food. The leading technical journal Nature Biotechnology compared growing such pharmaceuticals in crops to "packaging pills in candy wrappers.".

Clare Oxborrow of Friends of the Earth said: "This product is both risky and completely unnecessary. The solutions to diarrhoea are already out there and we do not need a genetically modified product, especially one that may risk public health."

Further browsing: For the two sides of the controversy see ventria.com and the opposing centerforfoodsafety.org


Back to the Archive