The Independent has an article tucked away in its Environment section that I think should have been front-page news. The article covers the news that for the first time rice containing human genes is being grown commercially. The rice in question has been developed to grow two proteins found in human breast milk. The company behind the rice, Ventria Biosciences says it wants to use it to make baby milk and rehydration drinks to help children in the third world. This all sounds very commendable, until you really think about this.
This is the first project of its kind to get the go ahead to go commercial. By choosing something that will help dying children, it makes it difficult for anti-GM campaigners to argue against it. In reality, there are already solutions to dhiarroea, and a US government disclosure states that the proteins will be used in ‘yoghurts and granola bars’. Once the public accept this project, then others will follow. This will in effect open the door to other ‘pharmed’ crops, that is crops genetically modified to grow drugs. There are many issues with this type of project, the main one is what happens when the modified seeds get into the food chain, as they no doubt will? Will we be eating a cocktail of drugs in our fresh food?