The Express, September 8, 2001



The first GM crop containing human genes is being grown in field

trials  in the middle of a farming heartland. The genetically

modified rice has been engineered to produce medicine  thought to be

intended to fight diseases like cystic  fibrosis.

Details emerged after the Daily Express faced  fierce criticism from

the biotech industry two years ago  for "scaremongering" after

revealing the existence of  Chinese GM experiments with human genes.

Conservationists say the current trials, in California's Sutter

County, risk contaminating surrounding rice crops destined for human

consumption. And they say many people will have serious  ethical

concerns about using human genes in plants.

Charlie Kronick, GM campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: "There is  no

excuse to allow drug-producing crops to be grown in  fields where they

can contaminate the environment and food  chain.

"This rice and all the other GM pharmaceutical crops  should be banned

and permits for future open field trials  revoked. If an individual

wants to take a GM medicine, that  is their personal decision.

"But past experience shows that once GM crops are widely planted there

is no way of stopping them contaminating conventional crops.

"This means rice with human genes could get into the food chain. In

addition, many people will find the idea of engineering  human genes

into a crop totally abhorrent."

 Last year hundreds of farmers unwittingly planted crops  contaminated

with GM seed across Britain after a mix-up of  supplies in Canada. At

the same time a GM corn not approved  for human consumption found its

way into 300 supermarket  products in America, forcing stores to clear

their shelves.

The GM rice is being grown by American firm Applied  Phytologics

Incorporated. Greenpeace carried out a test in  the field, north of

Sacramento, and identified two proteins  in the rice as human

lactoferrin and human lysozyme,  commonly found in breast milk, bile

and tears. Lactoferrin  is thought to be able to boost the immune

system while  other proteins can be used to treat cystic fibrosis and

the  lung disease emphysema. API chief executive Frank Hagie  said

last night that he "welcomed" Greenpeace activists  "visiting" the

company's research plot. He said: "API  continues to respect the

rights of all interested parties to share their views in regard to

this important and safe  technology. "This plot has been approved by

the United  States Department of Agriculture and complies with all

regulatory requirements."