The Express, September 8, 2001
GM TRIALS TO FIND MEDICINE RAISE NEW ETHICAL FEARS; HUMAN GENE CROP FURY
by JOHN INGHAM AND TOBY MOORE
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
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