Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Birth of the Milky Way Empire

"A long time ago in a galaxy far far away....Mary Alactivst was one of the last of her kind. She was breastfed by her mother, an oddity for sure because the Empire considered breastfeeding revolting, disgusting, on the level of the Primitives. Mary's mother kept to herself, never nursing in public because she did not want to attract the attention of the Elites. The Elites were the movers and shakers of society. They governed the Empire. They owned the lands, the money system, and approved or disapproved who was allowed to be schooled in the Ways of the Empire. Survival was difficult if not impossible without their approval. There were those who lived on the fringes of society who risked their lives to be one of the Free. Mary's mother was one of the Free."
Freedom. Yesterday, an anole, a common lizard in Florida, hitched a ride on the hood of my truck. I didn't see him until I was moving down the rode. He hunkered down and clung to the hood. I was in heavy traffic, no place to stop. I said to him, "Hang on Buddy, I'll stop as soon as I can." He seemed to hear me and clung on despite the difficulty. I found a park and stopped by a tree. I jumped out of the truck and gave him a nudge to jump off my truck. He jumped. He jumped on me, which I really didn't expect. I jumped and he jumped off me and ran under my truck. I got back in my truck and very carefully pulled away not wanting to run over the guy I just saved. As I drove away, Mr. Crow flew down, and the chase was on. "Run Buddy, run!" Mr. Crow won. I saved Buddy so that Mr Crow could eat. Destiny.
Well what does that have to do with our saga about genetically engineering human milk components in plants? It's all about human Destiny. Now for a dose of the reality of our Biotech World. I'd like to introduce to you a company called Ventria Bioscience. This is the company that has sowed fields of rice with the genes for human milk components: lysozyme and lactoferrin. These components will be extracted from the rice plants (or barley or wheat-patent suggests a variety of plants but for now they are using rice) to be used in oral rehydration solutions and infant formulas. Ventria Bioscience was founded by Raymond Rodriguez in 1993. Professor Rodriguez is a professor at UC Davis and also Chairman and CEO of the Davis Bioscience Group. The current President and CEO of Ventria is Scott E. Deeter. Ventria planted their experimental fields in California first but were chased out by various concerns. They then had plans to plant their pharmaceutical crop in Missouri But Anheuser-Busch and Riceland Foods were concerned about contamination from this unusal crop with their supplies of rice. They ended up with their experimental fields in North Carolina and Kansas. Currently, both their lysozyme and lactoferrin ingredients are going through the FDA GRAS process (GRAS notices 191 and 235). GRAS for both these items is "pending." I found the GRAS letters written by this company to the FDA highly enlightening.
The use of evidence (scientific research) for its GRAS status is referenced by the DARLING Study. The DARLING Study is well-known among IBCLCs. Fascinating that the safety of genetically engineered human milk components is based partly on studies on human milk. Of course the FDA belief that gentically engineered organisms are equivalent to the real thing has alot to do with using this as evidence of safety. "The protective effects of breast feeding against infection, in a relatively affluent population, first year of life incidence of diarrheal illness in breast fed infants half that of formula. Dewey et al 1995") Evidence-based medicine. Sort of ironic that the safety of genetically engineering human milk components is based on the safety of breastfeeding. The safety that mothers aren't aware of because no one discusses risks of infant formula. Stay tuned for more on Recombinant Times....
Copyright 2010 Valerie W. McClain

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