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[SANET-MG] humanized rice test plots in North carolina and Missouri
The article below mentions a test plot for humanized rice in North
Carolina. I wonder when that plot was subject to public review?
The public review of the new Missouri test plot was not yet placed on a
docket for public review? Does that mean that USDA/APHIS provides
emergency exemptions similar those provided by EPA? There seems to be a
lot of government pressure to promote the Soylent Green revolution in
spite of extensive public opposition. I hope that rules and regulations
for safety assessment were not tossed in the waste basket.
St Louis Post Dispatch
Firm races against clock to plant rice in Missouri
By Bill Lambrecht
Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau
Saturday, Apr. 23 2005
WASHINGTON - The government's rules for permits and nature's rules for
may combine to nip in the bud a quest to sprout pharmaceutical crops in
Missouri political leaders are pressing the Agriculture Department to
its permit review so a California company can sow pharmaceutical rice in
Missouri yet this spring. But the Agriculture Department has given no
indication that it will relent, a threat both to the project at hand and to
Missouri's hopes to establish itself as a leader in converting croplands to
factories for drugs.
The company, Ventria Bioscience, agreed April 15 to find a site for its
pharmaceutical rice at least 120 miles from southeast Missouri's
lands. In return, Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. said it would continue to
Missouri-grown rice, which the brewery had threatened to boycott if Ventria
planted in the Bootheel.
Ventria's rice is far from conventional: It is genetically engineered to
produce human proteins that could be used in medicines and other products.
The prospect of this specially engineered rice becoming commingled with
rice troubled the brewery, as it does rice-growers, environmental
much of the nation's food industry.
After spending five months reviewing Ventria's initial proposals, the
Agriculture Department said last week that winning approval of a new or
amended application would not be a simple matter.
Karen Eggert, a spokeswoman for the Agriculture Department unit that
permits, said a new environmental assessment and public comment period
require a month or more - which could take Ventria beyond the limits of
rice-planting season in Missouri.
Last week, Gov. Matt Blunt appealed to Agriculture Secretary Mike
expedite government review, said Jessica Robinson, a spokeswoman for Blunt.
"We're very, very hopeful that it happens," she said.
Ventria encountered the same trouble in California a year ago when it was
forced, under pressure from rice-growers, to move its planting site far
commercial rice fields and then ran out of time to win a federal permit.
"Deja vu all over again," remarked Ventria president Scott Deeter.
Deeter said Ventria was still mulling over potential new sites in
northwest Missouri that he declined to identify. But his company has
Deeter said, that the pharmaceutical rice would need to be planted by
May 20 to
have enough time for its 155-day growing season.
"We're trying to figure out what the path forward looks like for us," he
Ventria recently obtained a federal permit for growing its engineered
five acres in North Carolina, a far smaller project than the initial
planting envisioned in Missouri.
Ventria's rice is engineered to produce lactoferrin and lysozyme, two
that occur in breast milk, saliva and bodily fluids. The proteins are
in combating bacteria, viruses, funguses and parasites; the company has
they could be especially valuable in fighting the diarrhea that commonly
afflicts children in developing countries.
Critics worry that the pharmaceutical rice will become commingled with
rice, a threat both to food and to continued exports to countries that that
harbor a deep distrust of genetic engineering.
Ventria's setbacks are especially troublesome on the campus of Northwest
Missouri State University, which was instrumental in bringing the
Missouri and rallying Missouri's political leaders behind the project.
Ventria and Northwest Missouri State, in Maryville, Mo., signed an
November calling for the university to build and equip a $30 million
plant-sciences center in Maryville that will house Ventria and perhaps
Ventria agreed to move its operations from Sacramento to Maryville. The
university received a 4 percent share in Ventria. And university
Hubbard helped raise $5 million in venture capital from private sources,
that the company already has received.
Hubbard said last week that he envisions putting his university on the
floor of a new technology while at the same time helping Missouri
value to their crops.
"My goal is to transform the rural economy and also to provide unique
educational opportunities," he said.
Hubbard, who has since became a Ventria board member, said he is
in the growing possibility that Ventria will miss Missouri's window for
rice-planting this season. He said he felt guilty for suggesting
Ventria plant in the Bootheel, where an uprising by rice growers led to
Anheuser-Busch's threatened boycott.
But Hubbard said that his university's relationship with Ventria will
as will plans to break ground in the coming weeks on what will be called
Center of Excellence in Plant-Made Pharmaceuticals.
Meanwhile, Ventria will work to engineer rice suitable to the soils of
northwest Missouri rather than the prime rice-growing region of the
"You just have to face the facts," he said. "It's too bad that the
the hit again and that the growers in southeast Missouri passed up this
Bill Freese, a Washington-based analyst for Friends of the Earth, said
shortening the permit review process "would compromise the Agriculture
Department's credibility in regulating these pharmaceutical crops." He
advocacy group has asked that a 30-day public comment period for such
remain the policy.
Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., said that in standing up for Ventria
the university, Missouri had demonstrated its support for biotechnology and
"We're not driving the boat," he said. "We have urged everybody to look
to see if they (Ventria) can meet all their requirements. We would love
it get done. But we want to make sure any time we're dealing with something
like this that the regulatory agencies carry out their responsibilities."
Reporter Bill Lambrecht of the Post-Dispatch's Washington bureau covers
environmental issues and national politics.
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