GMO greenhouse barley well accepted
REYKJAVIK, Iceland—Acceptance of genetically modified plant products is no problem for women to use when trying to stop skin wrinkles. A skin “serum” with protein derived from genetically modified barley is being marketed in 22 countries from a corporation based in the small country of Iceland.
click image to zoomRich KellerEinar Mäntylä, co-founder of Orf Genetics. The proteins are being extracted from GM barley grown in greenhouses on the island. Orf Genetics devised its greenhouse barley production platform after four scientists discovered a way to alter barley to produce various proteins in the barley seed harvested at the end of a 2 ½ to three month greenhouse growing season.
“We started out simply with an idea, and we were plant geneticist with a plant biology background. We weren’t the first to use plants for this purpose, but we were the first in the world to come to the market with products. Traditionally, these kinds of proteins are produced in bacteria or in animal cells, and there is a risk of infection or viral contamination,” said Einar Mäntylä, Ph.D., vice president, director of research liaison and intellectual property for Orf Genetics and one of the founders of the company.
“Proteins are so complex that you cannot produce them in a laboratory, only living organisms or cells can produce proteins. So, if you are in the business of producing proteins, you must have a cell or an organism to produce them. There are a number of host organisms that are used for the production of proteins. They can be animal cells, they can be bacteria, and in our case we chose plants,” he noted.
The company started with the business model to produce proteins for use by scientists around the world to use as cell culture media. The proteins for this purpose are put into sealed vials with only two micrograms per vial.
click image to zoomRich KellerSmall vial of cell culture media for scientific research produced from GM barley. “We have developed a technology platform where we have the barley producing the protein of our choice in the seed. We introduce the gene with the information for the specific protein into the barley, and the gene is only expressed in the seed harvested. It is not in the leaves, roots or stems,” Mäntylä said.
“There is nothing that comes from plants that could cause problems in humans such as infection or anything like that. It is a very pristine host organism for this purpose,” he said. “The barley is not intended for use as food or feed but merely the means to produce protein.”