International groups of scientists, consumers, and environmental activists are urging the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to reject an emergency proposal to grow pharmaceutical rice. The rice would be the first time a genetically modified (GM) food crop in the United States was planted for commercial-scale drug production.

"The implication is there could be a precedent set here on biopharmaceutical crops on which we don't have a full national policy in place yet, and there are clearly questions here about human safety," Michael Hansen, an ecologist and senior research associate at Consumers Union's Consumer Policy Institute in Yonkers, NY, told The Scientist.

On March 29, the California Rice Commission, which makes recommendations to CDFA, approved by a 6 to 5 vote the Sacramento, Calif.–based biotech firm Ventria Bioscience's proposal to grow rice genetically engineered with human genes to produce lactoferrin and lysozyme.

Both proteins are found...

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