SAN FRANCISCO, California, April 11, 2004 (CropChoice news: Paul Elias,
AP, 04/09/04): State regulators on Friday derailed
a small biotechnology company's plans to begin immediately
growing commercial quantities of rice engineered with
human genetic material.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture denied
Ventria Bioscience's application to grow more than 120
acres of rice in Southern California because federal
regulators haven't issued a permit.
Ventria scientists have spliced human genes into the
rice genome. The resulting proteins show up in rice
seeds, which are milled into powder to make an over-the-counter
medicine to treat diarrhea and anemia.
State officials also said the public needs more time
to comment on an issue that has roiled the $500 million-a-year
California rice industry.
Many rice farmers worry that customers in biotechnology-adverse
Europe and Japan, fearing contamination, will turn against
their food crops if Sacramento-based Ventria gets a
permit for wider production.
Ventria, which has permission to grow experimentally
on small plots, now must wait at least until next year
to expand production in California.
Ventria chief executive Scott Deeter said Friday the
company would reapply in California, while also exploring
options in Hawaii and the South.
He said the company intends to apply next year for
a federal permit to expand its operations. The company
hopes to sell its pharmaceutical rice product as early