A couple of months ago, Ventria Biosciences report having successfully produced recombinant lactoferrin and lysozymes –human proteins shown to help reduce the duration and recurrence of acute diarrhea in children– in rice plants. Understandably, Ventria’s operations in California are met with a lot of resistance from farmers who fear for the safety of a food crop that rakes in about half a billion dollars annually in sales.
So now, Ventria is lookingat other options, and has shortlisted Kansas as an alternative site to gror their recombinant rice on. Since Kansas do not grow rice for commercial production, it solves the issue of cross-contamination. Still, I am with Jane Rissler, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists:
“This is not agricultural production – this is drug production,” Rissler said. “This is pharmaceutical production and pharmaceutical production in food plants should be discouraged.”
There is little to no opposition from Kansas residents so far, so it’s seems that it’s just a matter of making sure that rice can, agronomically speaking, indeed be grown in the state. Otherwise, Ventria may turn to North Carolina.