Thursday, September 6, 2012

Rice with Human Genes! Seriously?

Being a scientist I can't help but wonder if the miracle of modern science isn't going to kill us.  I was reading my Facebook page and came across a post about a new variety of Frankenfood soon to be unleashed on the public.  Since the USDA does not require genetically modified (GM) foods to be labelled you would be at risk of eating this rice every time you picked up a bag at your local store.  The only way to be sure you are NOT getting GM food is to purchase certified organic.

In an article by Sean Poulter he said the first GM rice crop with the human gene has been approved for commercial production.  The rice produces some of the proteins found in breast milk and saliva.  The company, Ventria Bioscience, has been given approval to plant 3,000 acres of GM rice (Baby Rice - my name for the in Kansas and plans to harvest the rice to extract the protein for use in various products like drinks, yogurt and muesli bars.  Many groups are coming forward voicing concern.  Some groups include: GeneWatch UK, Friends of the Earth, Union of Concerned Scientists, American Consumers Union, and Center for Food Safety.  These groups are concerned about the ethical nature of GM foods, the safety of the rice for public consumption and the risk of cross contamination with other crops.

Scott Deeter, the Chief Executive of Ventria Bioscience, said the fear of the various groups who spoke out against the project is, "based on perception and not reality."  I suggest Mr. Deeter that you do your homework.  There is plenty of good reason to fear.  I recently wrote an essay for my master's class on this particular subject.  Please feel free to read and understand why so many people are concerned about GM foods.

    Jonathan Rauch (2011) introduces the reader to “frankenfood.” Frankenfood is the term Rauch (2011) uses for genetically modified (GM) food. GM food has several benefits for mankind. One benefit has been increasing yield and reducing the amount of new land cleared for farming since the same plot of land can produce more bushels of food (Rauch, 2011). Another advance is being able to use a no-till method to reduce the damage to the soil and help prevent run-off and erosion (Rauch, 2011). The ability of GM seed to be planted in areas that have a high salinity content will help in arid open up arid regions for food production (Rauch, 2011). GM crops can also be modified to have increased nutritional content, produce new plant stains with that are disease resistant, and shorten grow time to increase the ability to make more food in one season (USDE, 2005).

    There are a lot of potential benefits to GM crops and in 2006 about 250 million acres of GM crops were planted and harvested but people are concerned over the use of GM crops are doing to the health of man, food animals and the environment (USDE, 2005). I just recently watched a documentary called Food, Inc. directed by Robert Kenner (2008) and it exposed how fast food chains have changed the way we all eat. It told how fast food chains buy 70% of all consumable food crops being produced in the United States (Kenner, 2008). The film spends time talking about farmers and their need to buy soybean seeds from Monsanto that have been genetically modified to be Round-Up ready (a powerful pesticide) (Kenner, 2008). The spraying and growing of the new genetically modified soybeans is now being linked to cow deaths, spontaneous abortions of calves and the possible outbreak of a new fungal crop disease that could potentially result in the collapse of the soy and corn market in the United States (ISIS, 2011). So we may have all ready created what Ho (2011) was concerned about, a virus (fungi) that we do not know how to treat by way of “horizontal gene transfer.”

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