Monday, May 15, 2006

GMO firm raises furor with modified rice

A Sacramento-based biotechnology firm has attracted protests against its plan to develop a diarrhea medicine for babies with human gene-spliced rice.

A coalition of environmental and farming interests have junked Ventria Biosciences experimental rice farms in two U.S. states so far.

The group argues that the rice modified with proteins found in human mother's milk, saliva and tears creates risk to human health and non-modified rice crops.

Genetically-modified organism (GMOs) often contaminate other crops resulting in costly lawsuites. In this case opponents argue that contamination would make conventional rice unhealthy for consumption.

Many regions of the world including Japan and the European Union are wary of GMOs and rice producers in the U.S. fear they may shun crops grown near "biopharmed" rice.

Unlike selective breeding with involves "crossing" members of the same species, GMOs result from insertion of genetic material from different species, usually through the means of viruses, into the DNA of the host organism. Opponents argue that such processes involve health risks and endanger biodiversity through accidental contamination.

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