One of the most alarming developments in the current COVID vaccine war appears in the form of a relatively harmless-looking September 16 press release from the University of California at Riverside (UCR). The press release begins, “The future of vaccines may look more like eating a salad than getting a shot in the arm. UC Riverside scientists are studying whether they can turn edible plants like lettuce into mRNA vaccine factories.”
Turning plants into “vaccine factories” goes far beyond the current delivery method of vaccines via injection. Even assuming many of the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates will be defeated in courts, the UCR press release forebodes the beginning of something much more sinister and dangerous: the possibility of vaccines in our foods. While a jab might be avoided, how can we evade vaccine nanoparticles in our vegetables? And how can one regulate doses outside the supervision of a medical professional? In effect, people might get a COVID “vaccination” not by a needle prick but by food consumption. Medical consent might be a thing of the past.
The research is still in the early stages, too early to attract the notice of any whistleblowers out there. As the press release notes, one of the challenges of this new technology is that it must be kept cold to maintain stability during transport and storage. “If this new project is successful,” reads the release, “plant-based mRNA vaccines could overcome this challenge with the ability to be stored at room temperature.”
Made possible by a $500,000 grant from the taxpayer-funded National Science Foundation, the project’s goals are threefold: 1) show that DNA containing the mRNA vaccines can be successfully delivered into the part of plant cells where it will replicate; 2) demonstrate that the plants can produce enough mRNA to rival a traditional shot; and 3) determine the right dosage.
Juan Pablo Giraldo, an associate professor in UCR’s Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, is leading the research in collaboration with scientists from UC San Diego and Carnegie Mellon University. His research goal is as clear as it is unsettling: “Ideally, a single plant would produce enough mRNA to vaccinate a single person.” Professor Giraldo is far from some academic nobody working on questionable projects of little worth. Rather, he is one of the world’s leading plant biologists and experts in nanobiotechnology, boasting a Ph.D. in plant biology from Harvard and an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Nanobiotechnology with MIT’s Strano Research Group.
Professor Giraldo explains, “We are testing this approach with spinach and lettuce and have long-term goals of people growing it in their own gardens. Farmers could also eventually grow entire fields of it.” According to Giraldo, key to making all this work are the chloroplasts or small organs in plant cells that convert sunlight into energy the plant can use. He says, “They’re tiny, solar-powered factories that produce sugar and other molecules which allow the plant to grow” and also “an untapped source for making desirable molecules.” In the past, Giraldo has shown that it is possible for chloroplasts to express genes that aren’t naturally part of the plant. He and his colleagues did this by sending foreign genetic material into plant cells inside a protective casing. Determining the optimal properties of these casings for delivery into plant cells is a specialty of Giraldo’s laboratory.
For this part of the project, Giraldo teamed up with Nicole Steinmetz, a UC San Diego professor of nanoengineering, to utilize nanotechnologies engineered by her team that will deliver genetic material to the chloroplasts. “Our idea is to repurpose naturally occurring nanoparticles, namely plant viruses, for gene delivery to plants,” Steinmetz said. “Some engineering goes into this to make the nanoparticles go to the chloroplasts and also to render them non-infectious toward the plants.”
There is little doubt that when it comes to developing plant-based COVID vaccines, Giraldo is your guy. Right now, his initial research is with spinach and lettuce. But how far behind might be additional projects to put mRNA vaccines into other vegetables, fruits, and meat? Farm animals consume these plants, after all. Anyone up for In-N-Out’s new BioNTech burger?
As we move toward the second year of the pandemic, pro-COVID-vaxers and anti-COVID-vaxers are forming their battle lines. Both sides have reasons and evidence to back up their views. The pronouncements of the CDC and vax leaders like Dr. Fauci are in constant conflict with the data on the ground, leading millions to fear that the danger is not only with the COVID virus but also with the vaccines meant to mitigate it. The government has just mandated that workers in companies with over one hundred employees get the vaccine. Court challenges to the mandate will surely come within the next few months.
Thanks to our brilliant minds in academia, the real change might not be in the types of COVID-19 vaccines, but rather in their delivery method. There is little question that food-delivery is the ultimate goal for mRNA vaccines. It’s becoming harder and harder to say no to the shot. But it will be impossible to say no to the food we eat.
Image: NastyaSensei, Public Domain