back to article US greenlights human/rice hybrid

The first ever plant/human hybrid is to be approved for commercial scale cultivation. According to reports, the US authorities have given preliminary approval for the crop to be grown on a 3,000 acre plot in Kansas. The plant in question is rice, but it has been spliced with human DNA that will make it grow a protein found in …

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Anonymous Coward

Time to pause for a monent ...

... and reflect that the majority of foods that we eat are already genetically engineered - just by an older and less precise method.

For many thousands of years, man has been slectively crossbreeding and selecting both plant and animals species to 'engineer' the plants and animals we eat today. Pretty well all the grains, vegetables, etc have been created this way, as are most domesticated animals.

Probably the only thing we commonly eat that isn't engineered in this way is fish.

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Silver badge

Umm, you realise its only march 6

April 1 is still some days away.

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I saw the title and thought

"Good lord, someone's trying to create a human version of Condoleezza Rice", it scared the cr@p out of me.

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Silver badge

Another pause...

When your anonymous poster at the top paused, it seems they didn't pause for long enough.

In biology a "species" is defined as "a taxonomic group whose members can interbreed", in other words you can interbreed grains with other grains, roses with other roses or dogs with other dogs, but you can't interbreed grains with dogs!

These experiments, however, are trying to do just that, crossing the "species barrier" without any knowledge as to what the results may be.

Now that, I think, gives *me* pause and "let's give it a try and see what happens" is hardly a good justification for messing about with DNA in this manner.

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Anonymous Coward

DNA patent

The elitist voices and brains of mankind are going to do what he/she wants, with moral laws being bypassed by greed. The government will continue to allow experiments and eventually some greedy corporation is going to patent the food, which will inevitably lead to them to place a patent on pieces of DNA...then...*dramatic pause* where will that lead? Heaven forbid McDonald’s from ever owning the map of man. In addition, where will it lead us once they have studied the alteration of food so much, they can actually determine whether or not it will produce seeds, for rebirth? Then…oh…. and then, the greedy slimes will be able to charge more money to farmers etc…

I am just mainly venting, however…these possibilities are endless and the outcomes will become more detrimental than helpful.

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Silver badge

Re: DNA Patent

I agree with you morally, but there is one benefit to the greed of making the plants sterile, so farmers must buy new seed each season: If the plants can't seed, they can't spread and contaminate the wilderness or other crops. This is a GOOD thing! :)

Second, nobody's holding a gun to farmers' heads to sow these crops. This was tried in India a few years back with GM wheat. When the local sahibs found the crops' seeds were sterile, they dumped the lot and went back to cultivating their old strains and collecting the seed as they always have, and the corporation concerned lost the entire Indian market. So if farmers don't like the sterile seed scam, they can always choose not to sow these crops. A couple of farmers of my acquaintance, here in Australia, are highly reticent about polluting their fields with this GM stuff, notwithstanding the higher costs and the nasty neighbour/consumer backlash that can arise from doing so. Some farmers do grow the stuff, but Australia's labelling laws require any products containing GM crops to be clearly labelled as such. And guess what? Those products aren't selling too well...

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Anonymous Coward

A Pause from the Falling Sky

"Species barrier" is only relevent to sexual reproduction. "Species" is quite irrelevent when we are talking about segments of DNA and RNA. Genetic material pass between different species all the time. Every time you get a cold or any other viral infection, that's when DNA (or RNA) of a virus inject itself into your cell, and use your cell metabolism to make more copies of itself. Likewise, segments of DNA pass between species all the time; that's often where drug-resistence comes from, and probably account for the majority of mutations that drive evolution. It can be argued that Mitochondria is a different "species" altogether, with its own DNA, cohabitating with our own cellular DNA but not mixing at all. It can also be argued that DNA contained in sperms are virus-like, and taking advantage of the metabolic system we call "egg" (which itself uses "woman" to make more copies of itself).

The paranoia about patents is even more absurd. Patents expire after 20 years, and the knowledge contained therein becomes public domain. Genomic map of mankind is natural knowledge, therefore not patentable at all. Designer DNA that can make kids taller, more handsome, for example, however, are probably patentable. So pay up if you think making your kid taller or more handsome is worth the money (just like buying them good food or good clothing; nobody is advocating banning high heels even if they are potentially detrimental to health); otherwise, wait for 20 years for the patent to expire, and you can buy the generics.

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Anonymous Coward

Okay...what about disease?

Alright, I am not a scientist and I do not pretend to be...but I suppose this could be a psuedo-intellectual presumption, so stop me if I am wrong. If they do splice the DNA of humans and plants, could that not open up a big door to mutating plant diseases and human diseases and somehow render a greater possibility of producing a new form of virus etc...?

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Anonymous Coward

What about disease

Plant diseases affect plants because the source of disease can take advantage of the metabolic pathways of the particular plant, and be disruptive to it (if not disruptive, we wouldn't know it's a disease; e.g. having a mitochondria inside a plant cell is not a disease even if it is geneticly distinct from the plant itself). Plant diesease do not usually affect human because most of the time they can not take advantage of human metabolic system; at lease unable to be disruptive. When they do, it's called food poinsoning, like certain types of parasitic fungus on plants can cause food poinsoning.

What's being discussed here is injecting segments of animal/human DNA into plants, not the other way around. Some rice advocates may have ground to fear giving human disease to rice, however improbable that is :-) The risk of getting rice disease into human that way is no greater than that associated with ingesting rice to begin with; that's when the final product finally gets into human, through the digestive tract. So if we really want to be paranoid, in order to prevent all plant disease from affecting human, we should stop eating all plants :-) While we are at it, eating animals are probably even more dangerous as animal metabolic pathways are much more similar to ours than those of plants to ours . . . remember the Mad Cow Disease? So we really should eat nothing :-)

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