viernes, mayo 28, 2004

The full text of Claire Hope Cummings' excellent piece on biopharmaceutical crops, published in a recent issue of Worldwatch Magazine, is now available in the Crop Choice web site:

Silent Winter? Biopharmed crops are turning wildlife -- and us -- into lab animals.

The intrusion of transgenic rice into the Sacramento Valley presents significant risks to wildlife and to the delicate ecosystems on which it depends. And it threatens the $500 million California rice industry, which has worked hard to develop a high quality product (including a thriving organic rice business) and an environmentally friendly image through its efforts to protect waterfowl and shorebird habitat. Now the possibility that rice with human genes and other novel proteins could also contaminate the human food supply is stirring up a storm of controversy.

The Ventria Bioscience company is testing rice that has been genetically engineered with human genes to make two proteins found in human breast milk, lysozyme and lactoferrin. Nursing mothers supply these proteins to their babies in their milk, offering them enhanced resistance to bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microbes. Lactoferrin provides an iron supplement as well. While Ventria is experimenting with several human gene-enhanced rice strains, it plans to use its human-breast-milk-laced rice as an “alternative to the use of antibiotics in poultry diets” and as a supplement in infant formula. Why would anyone take proteins that are already available in their natural form and genetically engineer them to create new recombinant forms of these same proteins? Because this is the only way a company can patent and own these valuable substances. This new and largely untested scheme raises unprecedented agricultural, economic, legal, environmental, and ethical questions. So, the general public might assume that the regulatory agencies involved in approving such experimental uses of food crops are addressing these issues adequately. Unfortunately, that is not happening.

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