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Friends of the Earth is calling for the production of drugs in food crops grown outside to be banned after the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) gave preliminary approval to the commercial production of GM pharmaceutical rice containing human genes . The environmental campaign group warned of the potentially devastating consequences if pharmaceutical crops end up on consumers' plates.
The warning comes as US authorities have confirmed that a third GM rice contamination incident in less than a year has hit the United States. In the latest incident a type of non-GM long grain rice (known as Clearfield CL131, produced by BASF) was found to contain unknown GM contamination. The USDA has stepped in to stop rice farmers planting the variety because of the likelihood that the GM trait is unapproved .
Last week, US authorities confirmed that Clearfield CL131 had also been contaminated by GM LL62 rice - produced by biotech company Bayer CropScience. Because this rice is legal in the US, farmers had decided to plant the variety this spring because of a shortage of seed. This follows the initial contamination incident with Bayer's LL601 rice which affected long grain rice exported around the world, including the UK .
Friends of the Earth's GM campaigner, Clare Oxborrow, said:
"This latest GM contamination incident should set alarm bells ringing about the dangers of allowing GM pharmaceutical crops to be grown. Using food crops and fields as glorified drug factories is deeply worrying. The biotech industry has repeatedly failed to prevent experimental GM rice contaminating food crops. If pharmaceutical crops end up on consumers' plates, the consequences for our health could be devastating."
"The UK Government must urge the US to ban the production of drugs in food crops grown outside. It must also introduce tough measures to prevent illegal GM crops contaminating our food and ensure that biotech companies are liable for any damage their products cause."
1. The USDA has given preliminary approval for the first GM pharmaceutical rice containing human genes to be grown commercially. The rice, produced by a company called Ventria, has been engineered to produce human proteins to be extracted to produce anti-diarrhoea medicine.