Gone to Seed (1998)
From the Union of Concerned Scientists:
Will drug-producing crops end up contaminating our seed and food supplies? Our results suggest reasons for concern. In the near term, this may be the most important implication of our findings.
Agricultural biotechnology is entering a new age. No longer are researchers concentrating only on inserting genes that result in plants with traits like herbicide and insect resistance that make crops cheaper or easier for farmers to grow. Now they are inserting genes to create plants that produce drugs and industrial chemicals--in essence turning the crops into biological factories. The developers of the new pharmaceutical-producing "pharm" crops especially promise compelling benefits--new drugs that would otherwise be unavailable and decreased production costs leading to lower consumer drug prices.
Corn is the crop most commonly engineered to produce drugs, but other food and feed crops including rice, potato, soybean, tomato, and canola are also being used.
The production of drugs and industrial chemicals in corn and other food crops presents obvious risks. If genes find their way from pharm crops to ordinary corn, they or their products could wind up in drug-laced corn flakes. In addition, crops that unintentionally contain drugs or plastics could also be harmful to domestic animals that eat contaminated feed; to deer, mice, birds, and other wildlife that feed in pharm crop fields; or to organisms living in the soil.
The likelihood that seeds would become contaminated with genes from pharm crops is difficult to assess. It depends on how seed contamination occurs -- by physical mixing or outcrossin g-- and a number of other factors, for example, whether fields for seed production or seed increase for food and feed crops are located close to areas where pharm crops are grown. More study is needed to understand how often seeds are contaminated and where in the seed production process contamination occurs. At this point, we do not have the information to be assured that pharmaceutical genes have not already moved into our food system.