Saturday, February 12, 2011

Banana Vaccine

There is some research and experimentation into genetically engineering vaccines within plants, like bananas and tomatoes.  Vaccines today are very expensive to produce and sometimes have poor shelf lives, but by putting vaccines in foods those problems may be fixed.  

Most likely these vaccines would be "grown" in a controlled environment where cross-pollination and adverse effects on other species would not be possible.  But, considering what would be the widespread use and disposal of these foods, there is potential that the gene could enter the domestic food supply.  Ingestion in large quantities and ingestion by certain people with health conditions may be very harmful.  There also is the primary issue of the effectiveness of the modified foods as a vaccine.

It seems unlikely (and unsafe) at this point, but someday instead of a painful shot we may be immunized by a tasty banana.


  1. Michael,

    This is fascinating, but maybe also a little freaky (to me, anyway). I think when presenting an idea like this it might be helpful to walk us through more potential risks. The benefit makes some sense here, but what about security of the food supply? Or rights--if we can engineer vaccines into food supplies, what's to stop pharmaceuticals from engineering other things in, like anti-depressants (whoa, this banana really mellowed me out!). For me, your post raises many more questions than it answers, and I think you need to more critically guide us through such potentialities.

  2. Hi,

    I know that this project has been going on for a while. Does anyone know of anymore progress on this?? Or is it still where it was like 11 years ago? I am looking forward to eating a banana instead of getting a shot.

    - A rather curious biologist

  3. @Anon: I can't say if it is where it was 11 years ago, since I do not know what was occurring then. As I understand it, putting vaccines into produce is currently being researched, but no claims of a successful vaccine have been made. I feel it may be some time before we see that.

    Once we do see a successful vaccine though, the process of getting it approved may take a long time. It will have to be proven safe by the FDA, and they may have to develop new standards to do that, since we have never had a vaccine in food before. The public will be naturally afraid and hesitant of "produce" vaccines, and many environmentalist groups will also have to be addressed.

    Ultimately (and unfortunately for you) it will be awhile before we see this, possibly 10 years or more.