A field trial with genetically modified peas is planned in Gatersleben, Germany. The peas were developed by Novoplant, a small enterprise involved in plant biotechnology. If the concept works, the GM-peas are to be added to pig feed to prevent intestinal infections.
The strategy to use plants as production systems for vaccines or medicaments is widely researched. Since the ban on antibiotics in feed in the EU, the feed industry is searching for new products to protect animals from infections.
Novoplant’s goal is to create feed plants by introducing suitable genes in the plant to produce antibodies against certain infections. If these GM-plants are added to the pig feed, the animal will take in the antibodies. According to Novoplant, the antibodies in the peas cause a â€œpassive vaccinationâ€ and support the natural immune system of the pig.
Already on the market in 2010? According to managing director, Dieter Falkenburg, the first of these new feed additives should be marketable by 2010.
The peas have been modified with a complex gene structure to produce specific antigens. These bind on the surface of Escherichia coli bacteria, which can cause intestine infections in pigs. The anti-bodies are formed only in the seeds of the peas, not in the remaining parts of the plant.