GM VACCINES NOW POSE BIG THREAT

SUMMARY: "The Meeting of Parties to the Cartagena Protocol in Hyderabad has been discussing safety issues pertaining to living modified organisms for the past two days. Experts warned that there are possibilities of new viruses arising through recombination of the naturally-occurring relatives of genetically modified vaccines in the same ecosystem. It may be recalled that in clinical trails in 2010, four girls died in Khammam district after they were given the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine, a recombinant DNA-based vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. Prof. Terje Traavik of the Centre for Biosafety in Norway said that his study found ”many first-generation live, genetically-engineered vaccines are inherently unpredictable, possibly dangerous and their use should not be widespread until all issues are clarified.”"

Bio-safety experts have warned that genetically-engineered viruses used as live vaccine vectors can be harmful to humans, livestock and the environment. The Meeting of Parties to the Cartagena Protocol (MoP-6) in Hyderabad has been discussing safety issues pertaining to living modified organisms for the past two days. Experts warned that there are possibilities of new viruses arising through recombination of the naturally-occurring relatives of genetically modified vaccines in the same ecosystem.

It may be recalled that in clinical trails in 2010, four girls died in Khammam district after they were given the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine, a recombinant DNA-based vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. Prof. Terje Traavik of the Centre for Biosafety in Norway said that his study found ”many first-generation live, genetically-engineered vaccines are inherently unpredictable, possibly dangerous and their use should not be widespread until all issues are clarified.”

So far, no GMVs have been thoroughly risk assessed from the environmental point of view, he said. ”The main gaps in our information about GMVs is our lack of knowledge concerning recombination and its consequences, and the genetic stability of GMV and its offspring. Recombination between an influenza-transgenic modified vaccine Ankara strain and naturally occurring Orthopoxvirus is demonstrated in cell cultures,” Prof. Traavik said.

Genetically-engineered vaccines are widely used in livestock in veterinary medicine and in human vaccines too. Belgian scientist Dr Ludo Holsbeek too stressed the safety issue. ”Genetically-engineered virus vector-based vaccines can be passed only after they are found to be scrupulously safe. There are possibilities of jumping into other organisms in recombination if they are used without proper risk assessment. The GMV-based vaccines have to be pulled back immediately if they are found unsafe,” he said.

S. African farmers shun GM crops

Though new genetically modified varieties of crop seeds are being developed each day around the world, farmers in some parts of the world are revolting against GM crops. A drop in the usage of GM seeds is said to have been witnessed this year in South Africa.

Gareth Jones, an associate with the African Centre for Biosafety, said that though area under maize has increased by about two lakh hectare in the last one year, use of GM seeds has dropped from 77 per cent to about 72 per cent. Larger cuts are expected in the subsequent years. ”Farmers are not using Bt technology anymore. Usage of GM seed has dropped in South Africa,” he said. The seed industry is also getting nervous about the insects developing resistance to GM variety of maize now. A representative of the industry group said, ”We need to develop an insect management strategy. Insects are developing resistance, but we are trying to decide when we should be doing something about it.”

Mr Jones said the liberalisation of agriculture in South Africa led to a monopoly of seed supply in the country. GM varieties of maize, the staple diet in the country, were introduced. ”Now, a lot of large-scale farmers are going back to original seeds, but the small farmers don't have that option,” he said.

”Also, the long-term health effects of GM products are not very clear. There is no concrete study to say there are no adverse health effects,” Mr Jones added.

SOURCE: Deccan Chronicle, India
AUTHOR: U. Sudhakar Reddy
URL: http://www.deccanchronicle.com/channels/cities/hyderabad/gm-vaccines-now...
DATE: 03.10.2012