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Silvia Ribeiro: The Faithless Gardener

The Faithless Gardener


by Silvia Ribeiro, ALAI-AMLatina, Published in Rebelion 02-08-2006
Translated By Tlaxcala

Pharmaceutical companies use Third World populations for experiments not permitted in their own countries.

Fabrizio and Jordano, two of the 140 Peruvian babies used in an experiment with substances derived from genetically manipulated rice by the company Ventria Biosciences have presented allergic symptoms from that time according to statements made to Peru's La Republica newspaper of July 20th.

According to the testimony of Diana Canessa Garaya , a 24 year old mother, she took her 8 month old baby to the Children's Hospital in Lima last year with symptoms of severe diarrhoea. A doctor offered to administer a "rice based rehydration fluid" which the young woman agreed to, since she had no reason to mistrust "medical authority" and she wanted a prompt recovery for her only child. So, without really understanding the consequences it might have, she signed the authorization that they asked from her to be able to give the medicine.

Diana did not then know that her son, who is now two years old, had become the object of an experiment, not permitted in the United States, by a US biotechnology company with substances unapproved for consumption in any part of the world.

After being given the fluid, according to the mother, the baby started to show allergic symptoms and currently is "delicate, constantly unwell and allergic to everything". She adds, "they tricked me, they just wanted to experiment with my baby."

Condemned now by various Peruvian and international human rights, environmental and consumer organizations as well as by the Peruvian Medical Association, the experiment consisted of administering to a group of babies with diarrhoea a rice-based rehydration fluid with the recombinant proteins (1) lactoferrin and lisozyme produced in the United States in rice genetically modified with synthetic human genes. (For more details see the article "Babies as guineapigs" published July 1st in Mexico's La Jornada).

The possibility of recombinant drugs produced in genetically modified plants provoking allergies is exactly one of the risks of which various US organizations, including the Center for Food Safety, had alerted their country's authorities when Ventria sought approval to grow this type of rice in California.

According to the report of this and other organizations, supported in numerous scientific references, recombinant proteins - derived from genetically modified organisms - are not identical to those produced naturally. The differences can be so subtle as to be difficult to detect even in a laboratory. However, the human immune system is indeed sensitive to these differences and can generate anti-bodies which in some cases lead to a chronic reaction to many other foods and substances to which previously the patient was not allergic.

In his reply to questions from Peru's Human Rights Association, the Director of the Specialist Children's Health Institute, Dr. Dante Figueroa Quintanilla, one of the people responsible for the experiment, argued, among other things, that "in modern medicine recombinant proteins are used legitimately to improve people's health, for example insulin, growth hormone, clotting factor and hematopoyetics."

Precisely in all the cases cited by Figueroa Quintanilla there have been problems of one kind or another, but as is already common in the case of genetically modified organisms, the powerful biotechnology industry has worked to suppress them and keep them little known. It is inexcusable that a hospital director who gave his agreement to expose babies to an experiment with recombinant proteins was unaware of them or, worse still, failed to take them into account.

For example, recombinant insulin, one of the examples most used by promoters of genetically modified organisms to show the alleged benefits of these products, come with a history of concealment and distortion about its damaging effects. In 1999 the British Diabetics Association made known an extensive report - which it had kept hidden for several years thanks to the "donations" it received from pharmaceutical companies and producers of sweeteners that also contain genetically modified products - according to which it had received complaints from almost 10% of its members (about 15,000 people) directly related to the change from animal insulin to genetically modified insulin.

The damage reported ranged from light discomfort to the absence of symptoms signalling diabetic coma, which is very serious because it can cause the patient's death if no measures are taken to prevent it. Also documented are the generation of antibodies in the case of the use of clotting factors and growth hormones. In one particular case (MGDF) a product was withdrawn from clinical trials because the formation of antibodies caused haemorrhaging. In other cases products continue in circulation despite known damaging effects, in part because the companies hide them or minimize them, in part because alternatives are taken off the market or else because the products count with a powerful lobby to prevent the truth being known and appropriate measures being taken.

Just as with genetically manipulated agricultural products, genetically modified products for pharmaceutical use have a bulging hidden record which, if it were fully disclosed, would justify their removal from the market.

In the case of Ventria in Peru, it seems furthermore that they are prepared to follow the sadly well-worn path of many pharmaceutical companies and use Third World populations to carry out experiments not permitted in their own country.

Translator's note
1. Recombinant DNA (sometimes rDNA) is an artificial DNA sequence resulting from the combining of two other DNA sequences in a plasmid. Recombinant proteins are proteins that are produced by different genetically modified organisms following insertion of the relevant DNA into their genome. As this recombines the DNA of two different organisms, the word recombinant is used to refer to this process. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recombinant)

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Translated from Spanish into English by toni solo, a member of Tlaxcala ( www.tlaxcala.eshe network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation is Copyleft.

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