August 7 2014
GMOs in Medicine
The outbreak of Ebola has everyone a bit jittery these days, and there's reason to be nervous. Ebola is among the most deadly of communicable diseases; usually killing 9 out of 10 infected people. But as University of Pittsburg infectious disease doctor Amesh Adalja reassuringly points out in a WebMD article about the disease, “It’s hard to say exactly what the [death] rate would be in a modern hospital with all of its intensive care units.”
Still, the disease is terrifying and in West Africa, where an outbreak is still killing hundreds, the lack of modern hospitals, medical personnel and equipment are certainly contributing to the death toll. For those who contract the virus, there is no cure. Yet, two Americans working as missionaries in Liberia recently received an experimental drug which is now being credited with saving their lives.
An interesting side note about the drug is that it was derived from genetically modified plants. As the Lexington-Herald Leader explains, this drug "wasn't manufactured but grown — in a greenhouse full of genetically modified tobacco plants." Read this New York Times article for a fascinating and more detailed description of how the drug was developed.
So, if this medicine turns out to indeed work after more detailed and lengthy human trials, will anti-GMO activists begin to complain that this life saving medicine should not be used because it's made of GMOs? Will the Food Babe and blogger and activist Robyn O'Bryan take to their blogs to suggest thousands more in West Africa should die because this life saving serum was made with GM technology?
More importantly, those who fear GMO food should take a moment to consider the wide variety of pharmaceuticals currently derived from GMOs. Those include: insulin for diabetes, treatments for hemophiliacs, recombinant hepatitis B vaccine, tissue plasminogen activator which is used for cardiovascular patients, and medicines still in development, like “edible vaccines.”
Many of these drugs, which have been used for decades, are injected directly into a human’s blood stream and have helped millions of people manage heretofore-killer diseases. The development of these treatments and pharmaceuticals is one of the reasons life expectancy continues to go up.
Most of these genetically modified medicines are heralded as life savers, progress, miracle drugs. Yet, when it comes to food, we're told to worry about a tortilla chip made out of GM ingredients.
It's obvious why the anti-GMO activists choose to stick to stick to food and avoid the medical area of the GM question. It's simply easier to tell people to pay more for tortilla chips that forgo life-saving treatments for deadly diseases. But for those who wonder about these issues, they should know that GM technology is used for far more than increasing the yield of corn and soybeans.
GM technology is used to save lives.