martes, julio 26, 2005

Molecular Pharming

The battlefront over GM crops in the United States and Europe has shifted to molecular pharming, the use of GM crops to produce pharmaceuticals. California-based company Ventria Bioscience has been at the forefront of pharm crops development, and has planted 75 acres of genetically engineered rice near Plymouth in Eastern North Carolina [1].

Ventria made applications to grow GM rice producing human lactoferrin and lysozyme, normally produced in human milk, saliva and tears, in California, Missouri and North Carolina, stirring up a storm of opposition. Ventria was driven out of California last year [2], and forced out of southeast Missouri earlier this year by a last minute uprising from rice farmers who feared contamination of their crops and damage to a $100 million industry that depends heavily on exports [3].

The USDA was under pressure to turn down Ventria’s request and others like it. The Grocery Manufacturers of America, representing $500 billion in annual sales, says that the government lacks a way to prevent pharmaceutical proteins from contaminating food. Advocacy groups presented Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns with 30 000 signatures asking for a ban on the use of food crops to produce pharmaceuticals. Northwest Missouri State University President Dean Hubbard insists, however, that his institution is going ahead with a $40 million agricultural pharmaceutical centre that would house Ventria and other companies.

On 30 June, the USDA approved Ventria application to grow its GM rice on 270 acres in North Carolina [3], despite opposition from scientists working at the state and federally-operated Rice Quarantine Nursery at the Tidewater Research Station, just over half a mile from the Ventria test site. USDA also cleared the way for Ventria to grow its pharm rice on 200 acres in the middle of Missouri’s chief rice-growing region, even though Ventria has already withdrawn its permit applications for that site. Anheuser-Busch, the nation’s largest brewer, had indicated it would refuse to buy any rice from southeastern Missouri’s hundreds of growers if the Ventria pharm rice was planted there. But USDA dismissed the concerns as “non-scientific” and beyond its legal purview.

Health and environmental hazards ignored

As numerous critics have pointed out, it is virtually impossible to prevent contamination of our food crops either by cross-pollination or seed spills during transport. The safety of these and other transgenic proteins for human beings is highly questionable. Prof. Joe Cummins has reviewed and submitted evidence on the potential hazards of lactoferrin and lysozyme [4]. Lactoferrin participates in the regulation of immune functions and controls pathogens by binding iron required for bacterial growth. It has been implicated in asthma with fatal consequences. Lysozyme breaks down the cell wall material of bacteria, but may contribute to emphysema. But by far the greater danger is that the transgenic proteins are only approximations of the natural protein both in DNA sequence, amino-acid sequence and patterns of glycosylation (carbohydrate chains added to the proteins), all of which may make transgenic proteins allergenic, or the transgenic proteins may trigger diseases connected with the inability of human cells to break them down properly.

0 Comentarios:

Publicar un comentario

Suscribirse a Comentarios de la entrada [Atom]

<< Página Principal