Are you in enough pain to swallow this pill? Stanford scientists have developed a new way of creating painkiller components like hydrocodone by injecting 23 different engineered genes from plants, bacteria, and rats into yeast.

The result is the beginning of the journey towards ‘GMO painkillers,’ and another entrance into the world of genetically modified pharmaceuticals. A world that far expands beyond the tinkering of Monsanto’s GMOs. The ‘advancement’ places into perspective the depths to which the booming industry of DNA alteration will take us.

Overall yields from this new yeast-based system aren’t currently strong enough to replace the traditional use of poppies in the full-scale production of painkillers, but it does in fact directly convert sugar to hydrocodone. Perhaps more importantly, it can also produce something known as ‘thebaine’ from sugar, which is the key precursor to opioid compounds. We currently rely on poppies to fulfill this production when it comes to pharmaceutical manufacturing.

As the New York Times reports:

“Smolke’s yeast — which contains 23 engineered genes from plants, bacteria and rats — is capable of making a direct conversion from sugar to hydrocodone, as well as from sugar to thebaine, a precursor of opioid compounds that would essentially take the place of poppies in the production of pain medication, but would still requite refinement. But it doesn’t make much of it.”

America’s Painkiller Epidemic

Let’s take a moment on the subject of painkillers to jump into the disturbing reality behind their excessive use.

Countless groups and organizations exist to target street drugs like cocaine, heroin, and even marijuana (which is absurdly listed as a Schedule I drug along with heroin, LSD, and ecstasy). America’s painkiller epidemic, however, is left in the shadows. After all, it’s generating a lot of serious business.

Painkillers are responsible for more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined, and are abused worldwide. According CDC reports, a whopping 12 million people are actually taking painkillers for ‘the high it gives.’ 

In other words, there’s a serious issue with the state of painkillers in the United States. At the same time, I am also aware that many people take painkillers for serious medical reasons. There’s no question that painkillers are truly are an amazing medical invention when they are needed — but like many medical creations, they must be used properly.

Would you take painkillers created from GMO yeast?

This post originally appeared at Natural Society


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