Pharmaceutical Farming Generates Hopes and Fears

Benefits weighed against risk of food-supply contamination
By Colleen Barry,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2007 11:10 AM CDT
A worker sorts GM rice.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – The battle over genetic modification has a new player: "pharming," or pharmaceutical farming, which uses genetically modified plants to mass-produce drug compounds relatively inexpensively. By altering common plants—for instance, tobacco, which can be engineered to produce an HIV drug—researchers say pharming could transform the treatment of illnesses that primarily affect third-world countries.

Public disapproval and fear of food-supply contamination may stall projects, especially in Europe, which responded less than enthusiastically to the GM food movement. Advocates counter that the considerable cost savings, which would be passed along to consumers in poor countries, offset the possible effects of altered plants finding their way into the food supply, which they contend is unlikely.