NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Biotech Foods As Medicines

October 11, 2000

Television reporting of genetically modified foods usually doesn't get beyond the "Frankenfoods" speculations of biotechnology opponents. However, on Monday, CBS News Correspondent Wyatt Andrews reported on biotech foods that could deliver vaccines and vitamins to alleviate diseases that strike hundreds of millions of people in poor countries.

  • For example, Charles Arntzen of Cornell University is growing tomatoes gene-spliced with a virus that causes the fruit to make medicine.
  • The vaccine in Arntzen's tomatoes will treat diarrhea, a disease that kills 2.5 million people a year.
  • He is also growing potential cures for malaria, cholera and hepatitis B.

Ingo Potrykus, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, has genetically fused rice with daffodils to produce so-called "golden rice," which is rich in vitamin A, and potentially could cure the vitamin A deficiency from which 100 million people now suffer.

Although the report noted that biotech companies have donated the technology for products such as vaccine producing foods, Andrews says that is only because they don't think the products can be commercially exploited.

Finally, although no response from biotech firms was included, Harvard University economist Jeffery Sachs was shown, and Andrews says Sachs wants "western governments to step in and subsidize these breakthroughs as a new kind of foreign aid."

Source: Wyatt Andrews, "Biotech Crops As 'Health Food?" CBS Evening News, October 9, 2000.


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