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Frankenrice

The Insanity: Human DNA Now In Rice

By James Donahue

In spite of assurances that the mad scientists of the world would not be successful invading the plant kingdom with human genes, researchers at Ventria Bioscience in California have done it anyway.

The company recently revealed that it successfully produced "Frankenrice" in 2006, cultivating genetically modified rice with genes from the human liver. The idea was to use the artificial proteins produced in the rice to make pharmaceuticals designed to boost the human immune system.

Early tests with children in Peru have shown that the proteins from the GMO rice appears to fight diarrhea, a common and often fatal problem in undeveloped countries, a company statement said. Thoughts are to add the rice as an anti-diarrhea medicine to health foods like yogurt and granola bars.

Ventria has developed three varieties of rice, each containing different human genes that make the plants produce specific human proteins. Two of them, lactoferrin and lysozyme, are bacteria-fighting compounds found in breast milk and saliva.

While it may sound like a good idea, and the research has gained the tentative approval of the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the research until last year was going on in a controlled environment, within company buildings.

But last summer Ventria planted 3,200 acres of this new Frankenrice near Junction City, Kansas, and possibly elsewhere. And this has environmentalists and scientists who understand how the plant kingdom works, very worried. Rice is a grass. And all grasses breed by sending their pollen through the wind. This is why Monsanto’s GMO crops have caused such havoc all over the world. And now that the rice is growing on open land, there is nothing to stop this new genetically altered species from spreading world-wide.

Rice has long been one of the most widely cultivated grain crops in the world. Critics worry that when these gene-altered plants inevitably migrate into other nearby crops, those pharmacologically active proteins will begin showing up in the food of unsuspecting consumers.

Jane Rissler of the Union of Concerned Scientists, noted that these proteins are not inherently dangerous, but there will be no control over the doses consumers may be exposed to. Some may be allergic to the proteins.

"This is not a product that everyone would want to consume," Rissler said.

Joseph Mendelson, legal director for the Center for Food Safety, said his agency has "big concerns" about the decision to produce drugs in plants growing outdoors in open farm fields.

Another silent concern: if researchers have succeeded in planting human DNA in rice, what other horrors await us in contemporary agriculture? We already know that companies like Monsanto have laced the corn, soybeans, rice, and numerous other farm crops with herbicides and pesticides that are turning once healthy food into poison on another kind.

Efforts by voters in California last year to force food processing companies to identify the genetically altered foods on package labels went down in defeat after Monsanto and the other producers poured millions of dollars into a state-wide ad campaign against the measure.