It sounds like a sequel to the 1973 movie Soylent Green. Yet, many food safety watchdogs are warning that it’s possible that some foods you eat could contain human DNA. Has life truly begun to imitate art? Do Frankenstein foods now mean that the warning phrase “soylent green is people” must also be modified to “rice and gummy bears are people”?
As horrifying and repulsing it may be to most people, it’s true that human DNA is in some food products, including gelatin and in a few cases, crop medicines!
When Human DNA Was Introduced Into Rice Crops
In June 2005, the USDA approved test fields in North Carolina and Missouri for growing rice with human genes. This mixing of human DNA with rice was the brainchild of the Ventria Biosciences, a genetic engineering firm. The company’s stated goal was to produce drugs in rice in order to fight diarrhea in children, a common cause of death in underdeveloped countries.
The rice contained what were termed as “two pharmaceutical compounds, lactoferrin and lysozyme, derived from human genes”. Despite the outcries of scientists, environmental groups, farmers and the general public, the USDA gave the go ahead.
The decision to grow the rice out in the open where it could easily end up like other GE and GMO crops – cross-pollination – was declared not only negligent but dangerous by those protesting.
The Center for Food Safety warned that “the compounds present unresolved toxicity and allergenic risks and have not yet received approval from the Food and Drug Administration”.
USDA Green-Lights Human DNA Engineered Crops for Commercial Production
In 2007, the Washington Post reported that the USDA green-lighted the “first commercial production of a food crop engineered to contain human genes, reigniting fears that biomedically potent substances in high-tech plants could escape and turn up in other foods”.
While it’s maintained that the rice isn’t “potentially dangerous to consume”, the risks of cross-pollination are high. In addition, the health risks of consuming unregulated and potentially high amounts of these engineered human DNA rice are literally unknown.
For example, one variety of the human DNA rice is specifically engineered to produce the blood protein serum albumin that’s used in medical therapies. According to Natural News, in 2012, Ventria Bioscience rice was being grown on “3,200 acres in Junction City, Kansas”.
Human DNA in Gummy Bears?
In September 2011, The Telegraph reported that a new technique had been developed by scientists at the Beijing University of Chemical Technology for making gelatin from human DNA. Human genes were inserted into yeast strains that results in “large amounts of recombinant (genetically engineered) human gelatin”.
Scientists were quick to point out that gelatin produced by humans is very similar to that made from cows and pigs. Others point out that many people are allergic to animal produced gelatin. While some scientists point out that it is purely chemical, meaning the DNA is nucleic acids and not human tissue.
According to The Telegraph, “human-derived gelatin is already in use by the pharmaceutical industry in the manufacture of certain pills and vaccines. The highly controlled production techniques of the laboratory offer a more consistent product than “traditional” gelatin, which is made from the bones and skin of pigs and cows. More broadly, human genes are used by pharmaceutical firms in the production of insulin for diabetics, human growth hormone, and erythropoietin, which is used to treat anaemia [anemia]”.
In fact, the Beijing University scientists believe their method offers many health advantages over animal-derived gelatin. The risk of gelatin transmitting animal-borne diseases such as BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) or mad cow disease would be eliminated.
Regardless of how the scientific spin is made to console people about human DNA being introduced into the food chain, intentionally or accidentally, the fact remains that most humans are repulsed by the idea of consuming anything human, even human chemical compounds.