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Genetically Modified Crops

Pharma crops

As well as altering crop plants to make them easier to grow or more nutritious, there is another more radical way that plants are being modified.

So called “pharma crops” are genetically engineered to produce pharmaceutical drugs. Rather than manufacturing such substances by chemical methods, the idea is to turn farmed plants into mini-factories that can mass produce medicines and other chemicals cheaply and much more efficiently. Trials of this technology have used conventional farm plants, such as maize or soya.

Click to watch a satirical video on pharma crops
Watch this student created
satire on pharma crops

Check out this website if you
want to get ahead of your teacher.
FAQ on pharma crops from
the Union of Concerned Scientists

Potential benefits

Potential risks

• Cheap mass produced medicines Down on the pharm

• Could make the production of some complex medicines economically viable

• The potential to deliver vaccines grown in ordinary foods. Conventional vaccines need to be kept cold and thus cannot reach places without the electricity to run fridges for storage.

• Pharma crops might accidentally cross breed with food crops of the same species, thus introducing potentially dangerous chemicals into the food chain in an uncontrollable way.
 Article - New Scientist:  

• However, this problem might be overcome by growing pharma crops in a sealed environment:
 Underground crops could be future of 'pharming' 

• Or alternatively, medicines could be grown inside edible plants from species that aren't normally eaten in our diet.

An alternative method of achieving the same thing has recently been announced. A non GM crop is sprayed with a GM virus and as the virus grows inside the plant, it creates the desired chemical. The advantage is that the virus is held within the plant, and the plant's DNA is not altered, thus preventing the spread of altered genetic material.
 More detail

 Are GM crops safe?


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