Friday, March 30, 2007

Mixing food and medicine

The USDA has given preliminary approval for Vetreia Bioscience to plant up to 3,200 acres of the modified rice in Geary County, Kansas. If the approval stands, Ventria will begin by planting 450 acres this spring. The GE rice contains immune proteins that have been shown to help children recover faster from severe diarrhea. It is seeking FDA approval to add the protein to foods such as yogurt and granola.

My first question is - why do we want to add this drug to a food? Why not just give the children who need the it the drug in medicine form? Those who are not sick would not want to (nor should they) consume this drug but once it is incorporated into a plant, the potential for contamination of other rices is practically assured.

Previously, Ventria had sought to grow the rice in Missouri, but Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc. (the country's foremost rice buyer) threatened to boycott all rice from the state. Anheuser-Busch had the same concern as many critics of genetically engineered plants, which is that genes from engineered varieties may spread to and "genetically pollute" non-engineered or even wild relatives of the plants. In fact, the same day that the USDA gave the new rice the green light, it announced that rice seed in Arkansas had become contaminated by a different genetically engineered strain not approved for consumption. This was discovered while investigating the widespread contamination of rice in the U.S. with yet another genetically modified strain.

So what is the USDA thinking? In whose best interest was this decision made? Certainly not the farmer or the consumers.

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