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[SANET-MG] biopharming fizzle
The press release below deals with biopharming. In reality the use of
rice and maize in biopharming development is going on strongly, for
example the Canadian government supported development of rice bearing a
cancer causing human gene product even though rice is certain to pollute
any food rice in the area. Biopharming promoters urge that human gene
products be restricted to non-food crops such as flax. Eek, I eat lots
of flax based bannock and flat bread, I need to read my blood sugar
regularly and find the flax products do wonders for the blood sugar
readings, they are low even after a meal. Flax is also present is
quality salad dressing. It is terrible of the biotech religion to urge
using flax to produce pharmaceuticals because flax is insect pollinated
and cross breeding , thus bound to spread the drug toxins to flax and to
flax related weeds.
For Immediate Release: May 24, 2004
For More Information: Bill Freese, Friends of the Earth: 301-985-3011,
Richard Caplan, U.S. PIRG: 202-546-9707,
Biotech Industry's "Biopharming" Prospects Fizzle
Latest Setbacks in California – Epicyte Pharmaceutical & Ventria Bioscience
Opposition to the controversial practice of genetically engineering
crops to produce pharmaceutical and industrial compounds, also called
"biopharming", has been building steadily since 2002, according to a
risk profile released today by Friends of the Earth (FoE) and the U.S.
Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG).
In the latest setback, San Diego-based Epicyte Pharmaceutical, a leading
developer of pharmaceutical corn, announced on May 6th it would close
its doors. Another blow came in early April, when the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) denied Sacramento-based Ventria Bioscience a permit
to grow 120 acres of pharmaceutical rice in Southern California, a
decision applauded by Friends of the Earth and U.S. PIRG.
"Everyone is against 'pharm crops' – investors, farmers, food companies,
consumer groups, even parts of the biotech industry," said U.S. PIRG
Environmental Advocate Richard Caplan. "Four years after we found
unapproved StarLink corn on supermarket shelves, the federal government
should just say no to drugs in our cornflakes."
According to the groups' analysis, privately-held Epicyte Pharmaceutical
was shunned by investors who feared the company could not keep its
drug-bearing corn from contaminating the food supply with
pharmaceuticals not fit for human consumption, raising liability
concerns similar to those accompanying the StarLink corn debacle in
2000. Ventria's bid to grow pharmaceutical rice was quashed by the USDA
based on similar contamination concerns. Farmers concerned about loss of
rice exports to GMO-sensitive Japan lobbied strongly against Ventria's
trial. Farmer opposition in Colorado helped stop a 2003 trial of pharm
corn by Meristem Therapeutics, a French company.
As detailed in the risk profile, the $500 billion food industry has
lobbied aggressively against biopharming ever since Texas-based
ProdiGene, Inc's pharmaceutical corn contaminated half a million bushels
of soybeans in Nebraska and 155 acres of corn in Iowa in the fall of
2002. These incidents prompted former Kraft Foods CEO Betsy Holden to
single out contamination of foods with plant-produced pharmaceuticals as
a threat to her company and the food industry as a whole.
There is also a growing scientific consensus against pharm crops. Two
committees of the National Academy of Sciences have highlighted the
risks of plant-made drugs entering the food supply and endangering human
health. The editors of Nature Biotechnology, the biotech industry's
leading journal, recently compared pharm crops to a drug company
"packaging its pills in candy wrappers or flour bags or storing its
compounds or production batches untended outside the perimeter fence."
"There is no doubt that drugs will enter the food supply at some level
if the government continues to allow open-air cultivation of
pharmaceutical-producing food crops," said Bill Freese, research analyst
at Friends of the Earth and author of a comprehensive study of
biopharming. "And let's not forget that these are bioactive compounds,
some of which are known to have human health impacts," he added. "One
corn-grown drug, the blood-clotting protein aprotinin, has been shown to
cause pancreatic disease in animals and also to increase honeybee
Opponents point to the declining number of pharm crop field trials –
from a peak of 42 in 2000 to 6 in 2003 – as further evidence of decline.
In October 2003, industry leader Monsanto shut down its pharm crop
division, Integrated Protein Technologies. The FDA has not approved a
single plant-made pharmaceutical.
"Safe and effective biopharmaceuticals have been produced in contained
pharmaceutical factories for more than 20 years with minimal risk to
human health or the environment," said Freese. "Plant-based biopharming
is not only risky; it doesn't work, and it's not helping anyone," he
# # #
The risk profile is available on the FoE & U.S. PIRG websites.
Friends of the Earth is an international environmental advocacy
organization with member groups in 66 countries. FoE's comprehensive
report on biopharming is available at www.foe.org/biopharm/.
U.S. PIRG is the national advocacy office for the state Public Interest
Research Groups. State PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan public
interest advocacy organizations. More information about the state PIRGs'
Campaign on Genetically Engineered Foods is posted at pirg.org/ge/
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