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[SANET-MG] Insulin produced by genetically modified plants short cut through regulations
The article below deals with the GM safflower field tests being
conducted in Canada (Alberta) ,USA (Washington State) and in Chile.
Human Insulin may produce insulin shock in humans, threated wildlife
including mammals , birds, reptiles and amphibians. The evidence that
the insulin in the field crops cannot be activated by microbes or animal
digestion has not been produced for public scrutiny. In Washington State
the the field tests are done in sage brushy country in the midst of a
number of threatened animal species include a pygmy rabbit species that
is very near extinction (the Columbia rabbit). The short cut to
regulations mentioned below by the developers of the pharm crop
certainly resembles flouting the law, at least in appearance?
Hugh Levinson, BBC News, April 4, 2007,
Chile, the US and are Canada hosting safflower trials
GM insulin crops Insulin produced by genetically modified plants - with
a human gene added - could be on the market in three years, a Canadian
company has claimed.
Sembiosys said it has made scientific breakthroughs and found a short
cut through current drug regulations.
The firm's CEO Andrew Baum said his company could become one of the
first to sell a plant-based pharmaceutical.
However, critics believe that these products pose greater environmental
and health risks than GM food crops.
Most insulin is now produced by genetically modified bacteria, inside
sealed tanks. The new technique uses GM plants grown out in the open.
The company is growing insulin in the seeds of safflower, a relatively
little-used seed oil plant. The safflower is being grown on a trial
basis in fields in Chile, the US and Canada.
Their crop is grown counter-seasonally to reduce the risks of the
insulin-producing genes crossing to other plants.
Mr Baum said: "Sembiosys believes it will be one of the first - or the
first - company to get a plant-based pharmaceutical on the market."
Sembiosys has predicted an "explosion" in demand for insulin because of
a growing number of diabetics. Moreover, new methods of delivering the
drug, like inhalation, require more insulin per dose than injections.
Mr Baum said that one large North American farm growing his safflower
could meet the global demand for insulin - and that the price of the
drug could be cut significantly.
If the firm can demonstrate that the plant-based insulin is identical
with human insulin, it won't have to go through all the long and costly
stages of full clinical trials.
Mr Baum said he saw his product as part of a new wave of GM plants which
could help change public opinion - particularly in Europe - in favour of
He said: "While the first wave of products were really focussed on the
farmer and improving agricultural economics, there's an increasing
emphasis now in the industry on products that address more direct
consumer benefits and consumer needs."
There are also more projects under way to develop many other
Professor Ed Rybicki of the University of Cape Town has modified tobacco
so it produces a vaccine for cervical cancer. He said the aim was to
help women in the developing world.
Furthermore, there are plans to produce spider silk from potatoes and to
make non-polluting engine lubricants in seed oil plants.
A Danish company is even trying to create plants that will help clear
minefields. The flowers of the modified thale cress would change from
white to red if their roots absorb traces of explosives - showing where
the landmines had been laid.
However Clare Oxborrow, of Friends of the Earth, said the risks of
contamination from pharmaceutical plants was actually greater than from
She said there had already been contamination incidents with
experimental pharmaceutical plants.
One American company, Prodigene, was heavily fined for its mistakes in
2002. Similar problems have occurred recently with GM food crops.
She said: "It's worrying enough when it's a crop intended for human
"But when it might be a pharmaceutical crop in the future that
contaminates the food chain, that raises serious worries and questions
about the risks involved for human health."
Ms Oxborrow said the promised benefits would not be great enough to
shift public opinion.
She pointed to many other factors influencing public views - like the
impact on the environment, potential health concerns and corporate
control of the food chain.
However Mr Baum insisted: "The goodness of what we're doing is so clear
- people who are dying of diabetes in the developing world will
eventually get insulin - that I think people can understand it."
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