Sure, diabetes is a problem of national concern, but should people have to eat insulin in their lettuce? That's the issue raised by the announcement that researchers at the University of Central Florida have genetically engineered lettuce that produces insulin. Typically, diabetics take insulin through injections, but lead researcher Henry Daniell proposed using the powdered, freeze-dried cells of insulin-bearing lettuce in capsule form. The plant's cellulose prevents the insulin from degrading until it reaches the intestine.
Daniell is also founder of St. Louis, Mo.-based biotech firm Chlorogen.
While the researchers hailed the development as a breakthrough for diabetics living with painful and inconvenient injections, critics have expressed alarm that such "pharmed" crops could cross-pollinate the rest of the food supply. "Consumers, including our children, who may unknowingly eat pharmed lettuce, could get an uncontrolled dose of an untested, biologically active drug?with unknown consequences," said Charles Margulis, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Food Safety, in a letter to The Californian, a Salinas Valley area newspaper.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIX/number 2/p. 10