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Cancer Promoting Transgenic Rice

Cancer Promoting Transgenic Rice

By Prof. Joe Cummins

Transgenic rice that contains an insulin-like growth factor and known to promote cancer is being developed by government-funded academic researchers for commercial production. Professor Joe Cummins exposes another serious biosecurity violation.

Transgenic rice that contains an insulin-like growth factor and known to promote cancer is being developed by government-funded academic researchers for commercial production. Professor Joe Cummins exposes another serious biosecurity violation.

Biotech corporations, government and academic institutions have come together to dedicate great efforts to the production of drugs from GM crops in Canada. There have been many field trials and at least one crop, rice genetically modified to produce human lactoferrin and lysozyme, is being seeded in the field for commercial production.


Although the development of such drug cultures has sparked a great deal of controversy and debate in the US, it has attracted little attention in the Canadian public, despite the knowledge that drug cultures are restricted in the United States.

However, extremely dangerous drug cultures have been tested in Canada with little to no safety measures or regulatory monitoring. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is just a sub-department of the Canadian Ministry of Agriculture, actively promoting and developing GM crops. The Canadian media has either ignored the numerous field tests or published favorable reports, with a complete disregard for the dangers resulting from contamination in the food crops that are the mainstay of the Canadian economy.

Recently, researchers from the University of Ottawa and the National Research Council of Canada reported that they had developed transgenic rice and tobacco plants to produce the human insulin-like growth factor hIGF). The transgene is a synthetic form of the human gene, altered in a DNA sequence to increase production in plants. The activity of the protein, produced in plants, was tested using an assay based on the growth promotion of brain cancer cells.

Canadian researchers proclaimed that HIGH would be helpful in treating a number of disorders: infant growth deficiency, insulin-resistant diabetes, osteoporosis, and AIDS. However, they have not been able to explain the ability of hIGF to promote cancer and the dangers to humans and animals exposed to it or the potential contamination of food crops with hIGF. Scientific auditors and newspaper editors alike have been careless to discuss the risks of hIGF-producing plants while promoting the medical benefits.

There is considerable literature on the role of hIGF in the transformation and proliferation of cancer cells. For example, there is evidence of an increased risk of breast cancer associated with an increase in the presence of hIGF. This increase has been observed in milk from cows treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) and this rBGH milk is considered a potential risk factor for breast and gastrointestinal cancer.

In 2001, the remains of 386 pigs modified with IGF transgenes were "accidentally" traded and eaten by Floridians. The threat to public health from such exposures was downplayed by government agencies and the media.

In Canada, the dangerous immunosuppressive interleukin-10 was produced in a transgenic crop near a population center with little control over the spread of the transgene or protein, the environmental and health impacts were completely ignored. Canadian politicians and the media took a passive, if not downright submissive stance, allowing drug trials in the fields without publicly reporting or discussing the matter.

The Institute for Science in Society (www.i-sis.org.uk) has circulated numerous reports on the dangers and long-term threats of transgenic drug crops, which should be consulted to inform especially those fortunate enough to put uncovered field trials or clandestine production facilities near where they live. It is essential that the trials and production of drug cultures are carried out with complete transparency, and with broad and open information to all about the genetic content of the culture, its location and the measures to monitor the dissemination of transgenes and the product . The Canadian practice of testing and production near populated centers must be made illegal. Monitoring of testing or production facilities should be done by independent organizations, and producers should provide rapid testing.

Finally, in Canada, the CFIA is responsible for allowing and monitoring field testing of biopharmaceutical crops, even though it lacks knowledgeable experts in the area of ​​pharmaceuticals. The regulation of dangerous biopharmaceuticals by a government sub-agency that responds to the Department of Agriculture, which promotes and develops transgenic crops, predicts a disaster for the production of food crops in Canada.

The sources for this report are available to members on the ISIS website. http://www.i-sis.org.uk

Is GM Drought Resistant Rice Toxic? *

Prof. Joe Cummins explains why a method of genetically modifying rice that is resistant to drought could be dangerous to human and animal health


Commercial genetic engineering has been based on the insertion of a single transgene together with controlling elements in the cultivated plant. Characteristics such as herbicide tolerance, insect and virus resistance have been commercialized without a greater understanding of the metabolic consequences of such alterations.

To develop more complex and agriculturally significant characteristics, a technique called metabolic engineering has been developed that reprograms endogenous metabolic processes.

Recently, it has been discovered that transgenic rice modulated in the polyamine biosynthetic pathway is drought tolerant. Polyamines are carbon chains that contain two or more amine groups (NH 2). Polyamines are essential compounds found in all living cells. They increase as bacteria that rot animal meat, producing a strong rotting smell. Polyamines are called putrescine, cadaverine, or spermine, and spermidine. Although polyamines are essential for cell growth, they can also cause disease in animals.

In animals and fungi, putrescine is the precursor to spermidine and spermine; it is synthesized from the amino acid ornithine. Plants have an alternative pathway that converts the amino acid arginine to putrescine, using the enzyme arginine decarboxylase (ADC), the product of the adc gene. Additional reactions to form spermidine and spermine then occur using S-adenosylmethionine and the action of the enzyme S-adenosylmethionine carboxylase (SAMDC), the product of the Samdc gene.

The rice plants were transformed with the ADC gene of Datura (a Jimson weed, a traditional and commercial source of drugs), driven by the corn ubiquitin promoter and the first intron; and transcription was terminated with the Agrobacterium nos transcription terminator. The transgenic rice plants had raised their baseline putrescine levels, which were later elevated during the drought, increasing spermidine and spermine production due to increased amounts of the SAMDC enzyme.

The exact mechanism by which elevated putrescine increased drought resistance is not fully known but it is clear that elevated levels of putrescine activate spermidine and spermine synthesis which, in turn, regulate putrescine production and establish resistance to stress. GM rice is designed to provide sustainable rice production under stressful conditions.

It has been reported that stress resistant rice could potentially cause a potential impact on metabolic disturbance - such as increased polyamines - of the mammals that consume this rice. Polyamines are known to be in high numbers in the cells and body fluids of cancer patients. Drugs that inhibit polyamine synthesis can prevent cancer and have been used in the treatment of cancer.

On the other hand, polyamines can produce toxic waste. Spermidine and spermine can be metabolized to hydrogen peroxide, ammonium, and acrolein, which are toxic to cells. Polyamines can contribute to the suppression of immune reactions in the lung. Polyamines are implicated as uremic toxins that lead to kidney failure. Chickens fed a diet high in amines, such as putrescine, underperformed and developed a condition called "necrotic cell damage." Wines can contain large amounts of polyamines from the fermentation of the grape. Spermidine and spermine are believed to be beneficial in wine, while putrescine and cadaverine are linked to symptoms such as nausea, sweating, and shortness of breath.

The good news that GM rice can be produced under drought conditions must be weighed against the bad news that consuming GM rice can cause disease. The promotion of this transgenic crop along with others in scientific journals invariably ignores the potential harmful effects of this product on humans and wildlife. Open field tests should not be undertaken in the absence of a proper risk and toxicity assessment.

* Submitted by RALLT (Network for a GMO-free America)
** ISIS Press Release of 09/24/04


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