Soylent Rice

Rice with Human Gene Causes Furor

A tiny biosciences company is developing a promising drug to fight diarrhea, a scourge among babies in the developing world, but it has made an astonishing number of powerful enemies because it grows the experimental drug in rice genetically engineered with a human gene.

Ventria's rice produces two human proteins found in mother's milk, saliva and tears, which help people hydrate and lessen the severity and duration of diarrhea attacks, a top killer of children in developing countries.

See? People think "cruelty locks in the flavor" is just a joke, and yet, here we find the beneficial component of tears: the suffering of others is medicine, god dammit!

But farmers, environmentalists and others fear that such medicinal crops will mix with conventional crops, making them unsafe to eat. [...] "The issue is the growing of pharmaceutical products in food crops grown outdoors," said Hope Shand of the environmental nonprofit ETC Group in Carrboro, N.C. "The chance this will contaminate traditionally grown crops is great. This is a very risky business."

The company, meanwhile, has applied to the Food and Drug Administration to approve the protein powder as a "medical food" rather than a drug. That means Ventria wouldn't have to conduct long and costly human tests. Instead, it submitted data from scientific experts attesting to the company's powder is "generally regarded as safe."

You're all aware that microchips are made from the bone marrow of third world babies, right?

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28 Responses:

  1. nightrider says:

    Yep. It's official.

    We're going to be pretty fucked in about 10 years.

    I just can't help but wonder about the crap that they "accidentally" grew outdoors that has been genetically modified ... and that (the proverbial) they haven't told us about.

    • lars_larsen says:

      Since these things didnt evolve, they're not stable. Much like todays agricultural hybrids which are so unstable their offspring are often complete runts, unable to compete in the wild. Seed companies have done this for years to prevent farmers from growing their own seed corn.

      Someone modified mosquitoes recently to prevent the spread of malaria. The only problem was in tests wild mosquitoes would overtake the GM population in practically no time at all. Our modifications are just about as likely to be benefitial as any other mutation or recombination an organism might take on in the wild. It works well for that first generation though, say... for food crops. But you will NOT find GM crops out-competing wild species! Its not going to happen in our lifetimes at least.

      People grow heirloom varieties of ALL of the crops that have been genetically modified so far, and nobody has ever reported loosing a strain of their crop to invading GM plants. Its complete alarmism.

      Even if we wiped out an entire species of plant, how hard is it to un-modify the GM plant and put it back the way it was before? What is lost when the entire thing is a reversable process?

      Anti-GM people have even scared african countries into thinking american GM crops are TOXIC, and they've refused almost all US food aid as a result. Leading to the deaths of countless starving people over some stupid spoiled overfed american hippy-dippy bullshit anti-government anti-corporate philosophy.

      If you're against GMOs, stop taking your insulin. Please. You'll do the gene pool a favor.

      • wfaulk says:

        Its not going to happen in our lifetimes at least.

        Fuck future generations!

        The problem isn't so much that there is genetic research in food crops, but that there's so little oversight. People complain about the poor quality of FDA prescription drug approval oversight, but this food isn't even getting that cursory overview, as pointed out in this article by the fact that if they sell it as "medical food" instead of "medicine", it doesn't need as much approval. Non-medical GM food needs even less. In addition, if you were to get sick from it, there's even less of a way to find out that that was the cause. All those people having heart attacks were all taking Vioxx, but what if all those people having bleeding ulcers all happened to eat the same GM corn, but it was eaten as Fritos, grits, masa in a tamale, polenta, and cornflakes?

  2. lordshell says:

    I wonder how many bodies lie at the feet of the modern "Green" Luddites?

    It's real easy to talk about the evils of biotech when you're a college student eating out at "Sizzler" every night. These fuckers piss me off.

  3. rapier1 says:

    lets see... death by gastrointestinal diseases causes around 4 to 8 million deaths a years. Generally in infants in 3rd world countries that don't have access to things like electricity, clean water, and viable medical services. So... something that would help save millions of people a year, can be grown by the people in greatest need, and is shelf stable... yeah, thats a disaster right there. I mean, thats 8 million people too many! It is in our best interest if we make sure things like this never get where there are most needed. We must fight against things that can save people like this, after all, they are poor and brown.

    Even worse is that thiamine boosted rice, that golden rice stuff that keeps people from going blind due to vitamin A deficiency. The only thing worse than a live poor brown baby is a live poor brown baby that can SEE!

    • strspn says:

      Thiamine is part of the vitamin B complex.

      Rice is self-polinating, but it's hard to blame farmers for being opposed to this when plenty of them have just been sued by Monsanto for nothing more than planting seed crop downwind from someone else's RoundUp-Ready crop.

      • rapier1 says:

        Sorry aboutt he misinformation on the golden rice bit. :\

        Of course, the interesting thing is that golden rice was going to be available without license to producers who make less than $10k US a year. Additionaly the license agreement allowed for replanting from stored seed - no need to repurchase.

        The backlash against the green revolution is a luxury position often held by people who have the means and income to be picky about things. If I, for example, was a farmer in a developing nation who was watching his kids die and go blind I'd probably want to strangle most of the 'we're only doing it for you own good' crowd with my bare hands. Paternalism is really just so gauche.

    • baconmonkey says:

      part of me sometimes wonders about the wisdom of encouraging people to continue trying to live in areas that have economic and agricultural base at all. While this may prevent one cause of death, will it really make a difference in the long run when an area is completely incapable of supporting human life? It was my understanding that one of the main causes of such GI problems, is the extreme lack of food. It seems to me that all this will do is change the cause of death, and possibly postpone it by a year or two. I have no strong thoughts on this subject, just kinda wondering along these lines.

      also, genetic screening ensures baby won't inherit eye cancer

      • ronbar says:

        People live where they live. If they're poor, they can't move. They obviously have food and water if they're still alive, but its quality and quantity are bad if they're in a bad situation.

        From the Wikipedia entry on cholera, the most common cause of cholera is poor water infrastructure. Innovative ways of digging wells cheaply and sterilizing and filtering water (from any source) cheaply go a long way toward eliminating a lot of suffering and death caused by cholera and so does stopping diarrhea. Every little bit helps.

        Personally I'm all for anything that eases suffering. Encouraging DDT spraying of homes' walls, roofs, and doors in malaria-prone areas is another very cheap way to ease a lot of suffering.

      • rapier1 says:

        Most of these areas are quite capable of supporting life as is evidence by the fact that people live there and have lived in these regions for millenia. I mean, would you have told the peasants in the Irish Potato Famine that it was their own fault for living on potatos?

  4. sherbooke says:

    I don't see Western corporations developing this stuff for third world countries. It isn't profitable. They've never done it. This is just spin. Pure and simple. A nice piece of "tactical research" here:

    "Earlier this month, a Peruvian scientist sponsored by Ventria presented data at the Pediatric Academics Societies meeting in San Francisco. It showed children hospitalized in Peru with serious diarrhea attacks recovered quicker-3.67 days versus 5.21 days-if the dehydration solution they were fed contained the powder."

    to back up the spin. No where in this puff-piece does it say "we will sell it to the third world". And even if they do produce the rice for sale, they - or the shareholders who will eventual own them - will lock it down so tight even a duck would have problems shitting. Witness the furore over Aids drugs for Africa. Trips plus here we come. None of this is about saving lives, its about cornering markets.

    Also powder needs water. Plenty of *that in the third world countries this is *supposed* to be intended for.

    As witness for the prosecution I give you the new medicine production facilities at Edinburgh, built by the University to produce drugs for the Third World because big Pharma in the West wouldn't. Yes, I have conflated Big Pharma with the GMO companies because they're beginning to look just as shitty.

    I can't believe you guys are beginning to make Monsanto the heroes.

    • spudtater says:

      Erm, no.

      Ventria has all of 16 employees (it says so in the article, you'll notice), and this is their core business. (Wiki page.)

      I know that Monsanto are a bunch of c*nts, but that doesn't make all GM endeavors bad and evil. Do not try to make this into a black-and-white issue.

      • sherbooke says:

        erm, yes.

        The following:

        1. it's their core business
        2. the amount of patents this company has
        3. The way V are trying to cut costs by avoiding testing on humans.

        lead me to believe that yes, they're going screw this for all it's worth. After all it's the only thing they've got. What else are they going to do? The VCs will *demand their money back - it's only business logic after all - and the only kids on the block who can afford this wonder ingredient will be - oh, you guessed it, us, the over-pampered first world.

        If you want to fix things like diarhea (even in first world countries), fix the infrastructure, purify the water, but that involves old-tech, cheap thinking which isn't profitable. Welcome to your grim meat-hook future.

        And small != evil? That's a new one on me.

        When all is said and done, though, research like this has to be done and will be done. What I dislike is the manner of it's trumpeting, the underhand way V are trying to market it. If they did the testing and produced a worthwhile product all well and good. Once the product has been proved and reduced in price, then ship it to impoverished at an affordable price, without the heavy tag of Trips plus etc.

        • spudtater says:

          Being small naturally means that they don't have the legal or economic resources to shove other companies (and governments) around; they have to get by on their own merits.

          But my point really was that this is not a cheap gimmick, a throwaway gesture. They are seriously developing this. What's more, their market will be the third world, because:

          1. That's where all the people are.
          2. As you said yourself, poor infrastructure and bad water.
          3. Cheap labour (and in many countries, no training required) to grow the stuff.
          4. Less resistance to genetic modification.

          And why the media-whoring? Well, because they don't have millions to plough into research; they have to raise it first.

          • sherbooke says:

            Fixing the infrastructure is a far better deal for the third world. But then, we're not talking the benefit of the third world, are we. We have a Point To Prove: GMOs are Good For Us so shut up and take your medicine like a good little third world nation. Nah. I ain't buying it. All we have here is a nickel-and-dime hustle operation trying to lock-down a market with some half-tested, half-arsed GM product from the future. This is just another symptom of the grim meat-hook future.

            But I'm beginning to repeat myself.

            • spudtater says:

              All companies are, naturally, out to make a profit. There's no point to prove or hidden agenda; they're a biotech company, they see a biotech answer to a problem, and they construct a product accordingly.

              And at the risk of sounding antagonistic, I must point out that saying "grim meat-hook future" a lot is not an actual argument.   8^S

              (It remains, of course, a damn fine phrase.)

              • sherbooke says:

                Actually I was commenting on your argument, and others who've commented on this topic. People seemed to have a point to prove that, oh, GMO is so good, so wonderful, the rocket-pack future as it were, and the rest of us, we're so mistaken as to the actualitè. Umm. I did get carried away in my counter which leads me to...

                I apologise for the over-use of that phrase. I wasn't trying to use it as an actual argument, more trying to underline, emphasis my argument... I'll try and be less passionate in future.

                I'm also cynical with the problem/solution order in this things. Biotech seems a lot like the tech industry in general to me: "oh, here's a cute piece of tech, what can we do with it?"

                • spudtater says:

                  On the other hand, I get annoyed at arguments against GM, the vast majority of which I see as committing the naturalistic fallacy1. This reached its nadir with the phrase "Frankenfoods". I mean, how much more anti-technology can you get?

                  I'm optimistic about GM, and I'll gladly put my money where my mouth is by consuming products with GM ingredients. I'm angry that in this country, I'm not able to make that choice because of the market forces wielded by the anti-GM lobby; market forces driven largely by fear and misinformation.

                  I agree with you that GM research will be done no matter what, and from this I conclude that we can guide this research neither by blindly accepting all GM projects nor blindly opposing them. We have to choose the ones we like, and support them.

                  As for the "cute piece of tech" thing, I don't think that's such a bad thing. After all, how did Alexander Fleming create penicillin? "Oooh, this mould here is killing all the bacteria. What can I do with this?"

                  [1] Specifically the appeal to nature.

                  • sherbooke says:

                    I prefer a more cautious approach. If we're going to do this research, do this research on ourselves, the wealthy westerners, test it thoroughly then ship it. It's something that commercial concerns don't do well. Certainly, on both sides of the Atlantic, there's a never-ending tug-of-war between those who advocate restraint (the FDA, Dept of Health) and those who say "just ship it" (usually because the latter have spent in a bucket-load on research, but little in evaluation).

                    In some ways, I see each side of the lobby as counterweight to each other: relentlessly optimistic, bright-eyed futurism versus fear and caution. Misinformation gets fed in from both sides, not usually from the technies, although that's a detail that gets lost in the noise. Of course, this is a crude characterisation of both sides of the debate. The point is, I don't want to go back to the 50s where the judgment of men in white coats was accepted without argument. Neither do I want an age ruled by Nature over Nurture.

                    Yeah, hear what you're saying about "cute tech". Unfortunately, after a long time in computing, I've become cynical to cute tech:-j It's often more trouble than it's worth. I'm not in research, btw.

            • rapier1 says:

              Of course, you are above this whole GMO thing and never shall a GMO product pass your lips. Of course, if they happen to produce the same exact thing by traditional means you'd be okay with it because somehow its more natural. Far better to liad the watersheds with fertilizers tand cause massive die offs than use a GMO product that fixes its own nitrogen. Better to use tons of pesticides rather that grown a weevil resistant strain of corn. Of course, we coudl all go back the low low crop yeilds of pre green revolution agriculture and watch several hundred million people (all poor of course) die of starvation. Yessir. You got the grim meat hook thing down in spades.

              • sherbooke says:

                you've not been following this conversation at all have you? At the risk of repeating myself from another entry on this topic, such research will be done and has to be done (see? it's in bold now). I'd rather the experimentation - which in this case I think it is - be done on rich wealthy westerners rather than forced on less powerful others.

                • rapier1 says:

                  My apologies in that I missed the single line in your multitudes that contradicted the intent of every thing else you seemed to be writing. Silly me.

                  Now, what sort of experiementation would you like that they haven't already been doing?

                  As for 'forcing' it on the poor I am not quite sure how they would force it on them. As a 16 person firm they really don't seem to have the resources to hire enough mercenaries to really force it on anyone.

                  • sherbooke says:

                    This small firm seems - to me - to be trying to fast-track their product by getting the FDA to classify their "miracle" compound as "medical food", as well as the snazzy piece of Peruvian research. To me, this seems to be forcing the issue. Now, call me fussy, but it seems to me that the product should go through whatever standard testing procedures that the FDA has for medical products (and a few more probably) rather than "medical food", then sell it in Western outlets. When it's gotten established and the case for this rice proven on a larger data sample, then sell it to third world countries. We, the wealthy westerners, become the guinea-pigs for the product. Maybe I'd like them to work a bit more for their $500 million market. It isn't going away.

    • spudtater says:

      > No where in this puff-piece does it say "we will sell it to the third world".

      How about

      "Deeter forecasts a $500 million market overseas, especially in developing countries where diarrhea is a top killer of children under the age of 5."

  5. tiger0range says:

    ... Whether recombinantly made or naturally produced, are indeed supplements. You should not classify them as drugs, otherwise you would have to classify some nutritional supplements as drugs.

    There are always unintended consequences for everything we do, whether it be feeding pigeons, recycling waste, building a sub-division, or using GM crops. Ten years of testing will have the consequence of killing millions of people.

    Could it have a negative effect? Well, it will. That's a definite. Will the positive outweight the negative? That's the assumption and it's a better one that the opposite IMHO.