Early in the GM game, the public were regaled with rosy images of the therapeutic wonders which GM crops would provide: the world would be rid of hepatitis B and other infectious diseases by a vaccine a single dried GM banana chip; Third World blindness would be banished forever with a bowl of vitamin-A-rich GM rice; unwanted preganacies would be a thing of the past with a little GM contraceptive corn delivering human antibodies to fight off sperm.
These wonders don't seem to have actually materialised yet: vaccines-in-a-banana disappeared below the radar, golden-rice has generated lots of PR but no healthier people , and the pregnancy-preventing plants fizzled out in bankruptcy.
However, GM pharmaceuticals are certainly alive and well and generating vast profits for industry.
In 2014, 20 acres of trypsin-producing GM maize were grown in Monterey County, California. Trypsin is an enzyme which digests proteins and is used in many pharmaceutical manufacturing processes such as for the activation or inactivation of viral vaccines. The 20 acre plot was the first stage in scaling up the production.
And gene-pollution? No problem.
Monterey isn't in the corn belt: there's little or no corn growing commercially there, and the land's too expensive for regular corn so it's never going to. The area has no wild maize relatives which could be contaminated by the GM corn.
No regulatory approval is needed to grow this GM corn: it's not a food, it's not on a farm, it's not a drug, and local regulators have dismissed the possibility of environmental issues because it's just "growing corn. You don't need a permit to grow corn".
GM viral vaccines themselves are already big business. Viral particles can be re-designed to incorporate into your DNA where they don't cause disease but do stimulate an immune system reaction to subsequent (natural) viral exposure.
Growing viruses for vaccines is a tricky business because they only reproduce in living animal cells. The most common method for mass-producing viruses is to harvest them from infected chicken eggs. Unfortunately about 2% of children are severly allergic to a protein in eggs. Genetic engineers are busy solving that problem too by creating GM chickens whose eggs produce a non-allergenic GM version of the offending protein.
When Prodigene's GM maize pig-diarrhea-cure ended up in soya, there were calls from the US food industry to grow pharmaceuticals only in plants not used for food. The biotech companies dismissed this as impractical.
Just marvel at the casual attitude to cross-contamination. No lessons have been learnt from the past (very expensive) pollution events, such as the adulteration of global rice-supplies with LL602 rice from a tiny experimental plot, nor note taken of the present panic in Spain where an invasive maize-related weed from the other side of the world is threatening maize-growers , nor the recent mysterious GM oilseed rape which found its way to France and thence to the UK . How many other unregulated GM chemical-factory maizes will sprout in an area 'isolated' from commercial corn crops?
And, think about this: GM vaccines grown in GM chickens and treated with GM enzymes, then injected into infants.
 GOLDEN RICE GOING BANANAS - August 2014
 GM POLLUTION BY INVASION - April 2016
 ORGANIC FARMERS PAY THE PRICE OF GM - April 2016
- Sara Reardon, The CRISPR Zoo, Nature 531, 10.03.16
- Dr. Mercola, Nobody Knows What Happens When You Inject People with GM Vaccines, www.mercola.com, 2.10.12
- Sara Rubin, Monterey County is poised to gets its first GM crop: corn for pharmaceuticals, Monterey County Weekly, 23.10.14
- William H. R. Langridge, Edible Vaccines, Scientific American, September 2000
- Paul Brown,Vaccine in GM fruit could wipe out hepatitis B, Guardian 8.09.02
- Robin McKie, GM corn set to stop man spreading his seed, Observer, 9.09.01
- Andres Pollack, Spread of gene-Altered pharmaceutical Corn Spurs $3 Million Fine, New York Times, 7.12.02Photo Creative Commons