Case Study: “Ventria Bioscience and the Controversy over Plant - Made Medicines” GB590 Corporate Social Responsibility Prof. Timothy Loney By Willette Marchany Rivera February 22, 2011 Introduction: Case overview Ventria Bioscience, a biotechnology firm based in California, faces the challenge of commercializing a product with potential and considerable public health benefits. Ventria had developed a ground-breaking technology using genetically modified (GM) rice to grow the proteins lactoferrin and lysozyme, both found in human breast milk, which can be used for the treatment of diarrhea in children, tourists and the military. Lawrence and Weber, 2010, p. 494) However, the pioneer biotechnology invention has to go through regulatory processes and stakeholder’s scrutiny, before it can enter the market. There are ethical concerns over the plant-based medicines and opposition coming from consumer advocates, environmentalists, rice farmers and food safety activists. Ventria needs to overcome the regulatory environment and manage its stakeholder relations in order to succeed and release this product for sale. In order to do so they must establish a strategic plan to improve their triple bottom line performance.
They need to convince stakeholders that the potential benefits are desirable and that they can safely and responsibly deliver the product to be commercialized. Even then, Ventria and the biotechnology industry might always face opposition from groups against genetically modified organisms in which human genes are also manipulated. “The public’s reactions to plant- made pharmaceuticals were likely to be extreme, given the high benefits, potential risks, and deep moral quandaries posed by these new technologies. ” (Lawrence & Weber, 2010, p. 92) Financial goal Ventria’s financial goal is to make profit from producing in a big scale the GM rice they developed and selling it at an affordable price. The plant-made pharmaceutical concept was created in order to take advantage of the capability of harvesting the proteins in a natural host instead of using a costly laboratory environment where manufacturing would be slower and in a smaller scale. Ventria’s financial goal seems to be intertwined to the capability of producing the GM rice outdoors over a large amount of land.
Environmentalists and rice farmers are highly concerned with the possibility of comingling happening and the adverse impact on the ecosystem this could have. Other than that, the Union of Concerned Scientists, a policy advocacy group, warned that it is unwise to produce drugs in plants outdoors, because there would be little control over the doses people might get exposed to, and some might be allergic to the proteins. (Grace, 2011, para. 24-25) Environmentalists are concerned too about Ventria using acres of arable land to harvest medicine instead. (Grace, 2011, para. 0) Social goal Ventria’s social goal should be to contribute to the treatment of diarrhea in children, the military and tourists at an affordable price with their innovative plant-made pharmaceutical without damaging society. In order to do so, they shall get the local and global public to trust the biotechnology industry and plant-made pharmaceuticals. They also need to assure that the product or its production will not harm or negatively affect human lives. The GM rice cannot get mixed with or contact in any way crops designated for human food supply.
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At the same time, consumers need to be informed honestly about the content of the products and that they are GM. Otherwise, customers would be deceived. There are ethical concerns about the use of human genes in this GM rice and consumer rights to be informed should be placed first. Food safety is also an issue as this GM rice remains to be widely tested in humans and be approved by the FDA. The company also needs to become liable in case the GM rice contaminates other rice farmers’ crops and contaminated products are sent to the human food supply.
Environmental goal Ventria’s environmental goal would be to produce the GM rice without contaminating the environment or throwing off the natural balance, that is, without disturbing the ecosystem. They cannot allow comingling to happen. Also, they need to avoid and control the risks of any adverse impact of the GM rice to the ecosystem by taking measures to avoid potential harms to the wildlife and the spreading of the GM rice crops that could lead to undesirable hybrids.
Summary: Triple bottom line performance and strategic recommendations After considering all the financial, social and environmental factors that adversely affect their performance, Ventria is in position of making a strategic decision. They should consider first to modify or radically change their production strategy and second to enter in a marketing process focused in educating the public about their product. These strategies can help them achieve their three bottom-line goals. They need to provide a safer way of producing their product and obtain the permits and the approval to sell it.
Their financial, social and environmental goals can only be attained by focusing in resolving the issues with their stakeholders. There are two recommendations on how to change their current production strategy. They can search for an isolated area of arable land away from other rice farmers and set stringent measures of control to avoid the risk of contaminating other crops. However, controlling all the risk factors in an open crop field would be complicated and it is uncertain to which degree it could be accomplished.
Another option would be to consider production in greenhouses. This would be probably more costly, but will ensure a higher degree of control. Finally, Ventria would have to ensure the safety of their product and take on an honest advertising campaign to disseminate doubts and concerns about their invention. Likely, there will be opposition based on the ethical concerns about GM. However, public campaigns that provide straight forward and clear information from the developers will give customers more tools to make an informed decision about the product.
References Grace. (2011, February 2). Genetically modified rice now on its way to fields in several countries. Nwoandsecretsocieties. Wordpress. com. Retrieved February 24, 2011 from http://nwoandsecretsocieties. wordpress. com/2011/02/02/genetically-modified-rice-now-on-its-way-to-fields-in-several-countries/ Lawrence, A. T. (2010). Ventria Bioscience and the Controversy over Plant- Made Medicines. In Lawrence, A. T. , Weber J. , Business and Society: Stakeholders, Ethics,
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