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."