On the topic of biotechnology, this AP article describes Ventria Bioscience's field tests of rice altered with a human gene:
Ventria, with 16 employees, practices "biopharming," the most contentious segment of agricultural biotechnology because its adherents essentially operate open-air drug factories by splicing human genes into crops to produce proteins that can be turned into medicines.
Ventria's rice produces two human proteins found in mother's milk, saliva and tears, which help people hydrate and lessen the severity and duration of diarrhea attacks, a top killer of children in developing countries.
Critics say that the practice of farming these genetically modified plants in the open air may "contaminate" conventional crops; the company argues that rice is self-pollinating and the spread of the gene is virtually impossible.
The potential payoff is interesting. The idea is that the protein, expressed in human breast milk and saliva, will help to fight diarrhea, particularly in infants and children. From a PR standpoint, of course that brings in the concept of helping children in developing countries, which has been such an effective argument in favor of the so-called "golden" rice enriched with vitamin A.
But from the article it appears that the company has a bigger market in mind:
Ventria hopes to add its protein powder to existing infant products. There is no requirement to label any food products in the United States as containing genetically engineered ingredients.
The company also has ambitious plans to add its product to infant formula, a $10 billion-a-year market, even though the major food manufacturers have so far shown little interest in using genetically engineered ingredients. But Deeter says Ventria can win over the manufacturers and consumers by showing the company's products are beneficial.
"For children who are weaning, for instance, these two proteins have enormous potential to help their development," Deeter said. "Breast-fed babies are healthier and these two proteins are a big reason why."
I think parents will buy it, and it might well be an improvement on regular infant formula -- which lately has been getting various kinds of protein additives to make it "more similar" to breast milk.