On March 29th, the California Rice Commission gave their approval for the planting and milling of two genetically engineered drug-producing rice varieties spliced with synthetic human genes. This will be the first commercial pharmaceutical food crop in the world and could be planted anywhere in the state.
The Food and Drug Administration has established a zero tolerance for pharmaceutical crop products in food and animal feed. Contamination of the food supply with this rice is inevitable!
This “pharm” rice is produced by Ventria Biosciences, a Sacramento-based company. Ventria’s rice has been genetically engineered by inserting human genes, and it produces drugs for infant formula and as antibiotic substitutes in poultry feed.
These rice varieties have not yet received federal approval for marketing as drugs, and have not been approved for human or animal consumption by the Food and Drug Administration. The federal government has not evaluated their safety for humans or the environment.
Final approval for this Pharmaceutical Rice must still be granted by The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). CDFA may be making a decision at any time.
TAKE ACTION TODAY
Send an email to the CDFA Secretary, A.G. Kawamura encouraging him to delay approval of the Ventria’s rice until this rice has been approved for human consumption and at the very least to allow for public input during the decision making process.
Or cut and paste the sample comments below and send to: secretary (at) cdfa.ca.gov
Please also send a copy of your comments to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
governor (at) governor.ca.gov
TITLE: PLEASE STOP PHARMACEUTICAL RICE
Dear Secretary Kawamura,
I am writing to express my concern about the recent recommendation of the California Rice Commission to approve a protocol for the Ventria Biosciences pharmaceutical rice varieties.
This pharmaceutical rice has not been approved for human consumption by the federal government. Until approval is obtained by Ventria, no certification for commercial production in California should be granted.
The protocol allows for the planting of research crops anywhere in the state and the transportation of milled pharmaceutical rice from the restricted growing area in Southern California to any other region of California. This and other potential sources of contamination present great danger to the purity and reputation of California rice. Even a small risk of contamination is too great, and will not be tolerated by consumers or foreign markets. The California rice industry cannot afford contamination, or the risk of contamination from this rice.
I urge you to weigh these considerations carefully before you make a decision on the recommendation of the Rice Commission. I also strongly urge that you convene a public input process to hear from the wide range of people and organizations in California that have knowledge, concerns and information to incorporate in your decision.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter.
Cc: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
ON PHARMACEUTICAL RICE IN CALIFORNIA
Date: March 30, 2004
On Monday March 29, 2004, the California Rice Commission made a decision to recommend the approval of the nation’s first planting guidelines of a genetically engineered (GE) pharmaceutical crop. Also known as pharm crops, these plants are engineered to produce drugs for humans or animals. The company planning to plant this pharm rice, Sacramento-based Ventria Biosciences, has developed two varieties genetically engineered with synthetic human genes to produce two pharmaceutical proteins, lactoferrin and lysozyme, for use as antibiotics and anti-diarrheals.
These rice varieties have not yet received federal approval for arketing as drugs, and have not been approved for human consumption by the food and Drug Administration. The federal government has not evaluated their safety for humans or the environment.
The guidelines restrict the production of the pharm rice to 10 counties that do not currently grow rice (San Luis Obispo, Kern, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego and Imperial), but they do not restrict the location of the processing facilities. Contamination of the food system may occur at several points in the production process – most significantly, birds can transport it many miles along the Pacific Flyway, and it can be spilled during transportation from the field to the mill.
The FDA has established a zero tolerance for pharm crop products in food and feed supplies, and contamination would lead to a costly recall and would hurt California rice farmers by weakening consumer confidence. The production of pharm rice in California presents a serious threat to export markets. Japanese consumers are opposed to all genetic engineering. In mid-March, a petition with one million signatures was delivered to the Canadian and US wheat industry stating that if any GMO wheat is grown, they would stop buying all North American wheat. Drug producing rice engineered with human genes will no doubt be seen as an even greater threat by the Japanese.
The Secretary of CDFA makes the final ruling on these guidelines, and his decision may occur by mid-April. The Secretary may decide to forgo the normal notification public comment period in favor of fast-tracking a decision to permit Ventria to plant their pharm rice within a month.
This development is occurring at a time when many scientific, food manufacturing, and agriculture organizations are urging that no food crops be used for pharmaceutical production. This is an issue is of great significance to the Californian rice industry, the agricultural economy of the state, to the environment, and to consumers of California rice.
For more information, contact:
Renata Brillinger, Director of Californians for GE-Free Agriculture
(707) 874-1557 x 222 . renata (at) oaec.org
Californians for GE-Free Agriculture is a coalition of member organizations and individuals united to end genetically engineered agriculture in California. We encourage and support farmers in their rejection of transgenic crops in the state. We are committed to ecologically and economically sustainable farming, which is threatened by genetic engineering technologies.
Member organizations include:
- California Certified Organic Farmers
- Center for Environmental Health
- Center for Food Safety
- Community Alliance with Family Farmers
- Ecological Farming Association
- Four Elements Farm
- Genetic Engineering Action Network
- Occidental Arts & Ecology Center
- Organic Consumers Association