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Pharming

A 2008 article in Salon describes the scientific and ethical concerns around animal pharming (for more, see the section on “Cloned and GMO Animals“).

In a 2001 submission to Canadian regulators, four scientists warn that experimental pharm crops “will inevitably enter the food chain directly through error” and that food crops should not be used “unless it can be established beyond all doubt that these products are safe.”

In 2003, a coalition of food safety, consumer and farm groups notify USDA of its intent to sue for the agency’s failure to regulate pharm crops.

A 2004 Friends of the Earth brief on risks of drug crops.

The Union of Concerned Scientists report in 2005 on the economics and risks to farmers from pharm crops; also, see a 2005 paper by consumer and environmental groups outlines the financial risks to investors from pharm crop companies.

A 2007 paper by a Santa Clara University researcher outlines risks from pharm crops, including a brief review of the Ventria pharm rice. The paper concludes, “… it will be difficult to avoid food contamination and potential harmful effects to wildlife if Pharmaceuticals are widely produced in food crops grown out of doors.”

In 2001, a Greenpeace letter to the California Department of Food and Agriculture warns that pharm rice grown in the state by Applied Phytologics (later renamed Ventria Bio-Science) poses risks to consumers, farmers and wildlife. The rice is intended to produce a human breast milk substitute, and is engineered with human genes.

A 2004 report on Ventria’s pharm rice in California by Consumers Union, Center for Food Safety, Environment California and Friends of the Earth argues that “scientists and agronomists agree that it is virtually impossible to keep [GMO drug crops] from entering the food and feed supply when food crops are engineered to produce these compounds.” Ventria ultimately is forced out of California to Missouri, then to Kansas and North Carolina.

In a review of USDA documents received under the Freedom of Information Act, the Union of Concerned Scientists finds that the agency failed to inspect Ventria’s pharm rice fields in North Carolina as required under its own rules, even after a Hurricane passed near the fields. The nonprofit has posted many of the documents on its website.

A detailed 2007 review of Ventria’s rice experiment, by the Center for Food Safety.

After Ventria announces it will plant its pharm rice in North Carolina, a Duke University scientist writes to the science journal Nature Biotechnology on the liability and contamination issues for the area’s farmers, especially organic growers. The Journal agrees, noting that pharming with food crops poses “too many problems and nonfood crops are a better alternative” and notes that organic growers’ “livelihood and certification status are under threat” from nearby pharm crops.

A September 2001 Greenpeace briefing calls pharm crops “An Accident Waiting to Happen.” The following summer, ProdiGene’s experimental pharm corn contaminates 550,000 bushels of soybeans headed to the food supply.

A chronology of pharm crop development and the ProdiGene contamination incidents.

A Washington Post investigation reveals how ProdiGene’s untested corn drug contaminated fields in Nebraska and Iowa. In each case, company field inspectors failed to carry out required inspections at proper intervals. In Nebraska, where 550,000 bushels of soybeans were contaminated by “volunteer” corn plants, a hailstorm opened the soy field to sunlight, allowing the volunteer drug corn to bloom.

The Nation magazine calls the ProdiGene incident The Three Mile Island of Biotech.

In the months prior to the ProdiGene contamination incident, the company (via its Stauffer Seeds subsidiary) ran this ad (below) in farm journals, enticing farmers to grow its untested GMO corn with the promise of “up to” one dollar a bushel premium price. Note that despite USDA restrictions on pharm crops, the ad also promises “No Change In Current Farming Practices.”

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