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[SANET-MG] safety of secretly testes pharm crops
ISIS Press Release 10/04/06
Drug Trial Catastrophe & Safety of Secretly Tested Pharm Crops
A monoclonal antibody drug tested in a clinical trial made all six
healthy volunteers violently ill, yet transgenic crop plants with
similar drugs are being tested in secret locations and the unsuspecting
public are being exposed without their knowledge or consent. Prof. Joe
Cummins and Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
A fully referenced version of this article is posted on ISIS members’
website. Details here
Drug trial reactions attest to the deadly nature of MAB drugs
The London drug trial that left six healthy volunteers dangerously ill
has raised awkward questions on the science and ethics involved in all
stages of drug research and development (“Drug trial catastrophe –
collapse of science and ethics”, this series). The drug, code named
TGN1412, is a genetically engineered humanized monoclonal antibody (MAB)
aimed at treating leukaemia and autoimmune diseases such as multiple
sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Hundreds of MAB drugs are under
development, 18 of which have already been approved by the US FDA, with
warnings posted on each and every one of them (“Warnings over FDA
approved monoclonal antibody drugs”, this series).
The violent reactions of all six human volunteers injected with TGN1412
serves as a graphic demonstration on how deadly such drugs can be.
In the aftershock of the episode, bioethicists and others have called
for tighter regulation of human drug trials and a more cautious
protocol. However, no one has raised the alarm over the distinct
possibility that the general public might be exposed without informed
consent to transgenic crops producing such drugs.
Secret pharm crops with MABs
Currently, the MAB drugs approved have mainly been prepared from cell
cultures. The cost to the patients would be at least $20 000 to $50 000
per year; the colon cancer drug Erbitux costs $17 000 per month . So,
only the wealthy could benefit from such drugs, if at all. Producing the
drugs in transgenic farm animals or in crop plants, therefore, promises
to greatly reduce the cost of MAB drugs. And plans are afoot to do just
that, with reckless disregard for the safety of the general public.
Laboratory mice have already been modified to produce human antibodies
and there are efforts to create farm animals producing human antibodies
. Human monoclonal antibodies have been produced at relatively high
levels in chicken eggs . And humanized MABs have been produced using
the yeast Pichia pastoris, ‘glycoengineered’ to express human patterns
of glycosylation (carbohydrate chains on proteins) to avoid
immunological problems arising from non-human glycosylation .
Plant-based production of recombinant antibodies has been discussed
extensively. A review published in 2003  reported that six
plant-derived antibodies have been developed as human therapeutics. The
drug, Avicidin, developed by NeoRx and Monsanto, had some anticancer
effect on colon cancer; but it caused severe diarrhoea and was
withdrawn. A plant-derived antibody CaroRx produced in tobacco claims to
reduce tooth decay by preventing adhesion of the bacterium Streptococcus
mutans. A MAB targeting the cancer-antigen CEA was produced in tobacco,
pea, rice and wheat. A humanized MAB recognizing herpes simples virus 2
was produced in soybean. Tobacco plants were transformed with a viral
vector to produce antibodies targeting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Finally,
a MAB produced in tobacco targeted human chorionic gonadotropin, and was
intended for use in contraception, pregnancy detection and therapy of
tumours . Plants have been transformed to produce prophylactic
antibodies against rabies and other disease conditions .
We have drawn attention to the hazards of producing genetically modified
vaccines and therapeutic antibodies. The main threat is the genetic
pollution of major food crops resulting in food that is toxic .
Humanized MABs structured to attack herpes virus or regulate the human
immune system were to be produced by transgenic strains of the green
alga Chlamydomonas in large plastic tubes near a beach in Hawaii
Chlamydomonas is a common soil microbe so the nature and location of the
production facility would risk spreading the transgenic strains and the
human genes also to soil microbes .
Molecular pharming (producing pharmaceuticals in transgenic crops) is
turning into a new battlefront in the struggle of the global civil
society against transgenic crops. Too many governments of industrialised
countries appear to be prepared to allow biotech corporations to
contaminate our food supply with un-prescribed and dangerous drugs .
The precise MABs in pharm crops deemed confidential business information
There have been at least 29 field tests of transgenic crops known to be
producing antibodies, but the actual genes have been deemed confidential
business information (CBI). The crops modified include maize and
soybean; and the companies testing the transgenic crops are Prodigene,
Monsanto and Agracetus, among others. The field releases were in Hawaii,
Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana Minnesota, Puerto Rico, Texas and
other states . Other crops and MABs may have been tested, but
designated CBI, as are the actual locations of such tests, and no effort
has been made to notify bystanders and neighbours that are likely to be
directly exposed to the drugs. People may be exposed to MABs from
transgenic crops by pollen, dust debris from leaves, stems and flowers,
and from polluted surface and groundwater. Once the MAB genes escape to
fertilize neighbouring crops, they will persist within the contaminated
crops, by virtue of simple Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium in elementary
There is no case for using crop plants in the open field to produce
these drugs, as they could easily be produced in plant cell culture
under fully contained conditions.
The secretive field trials should never have been allowed, as they are
exposing people, without their knowledge or consent, to drugs that could
become life-threatening, as the London drug trial so vividly demonstrated.
The location and nature of current and previous field trials should be
made public now before any more damage is done, and all further field
trials should be banned.
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