Australian scientists studying measles vaccine in genetically enhanced rice

by Stormy Wylie
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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — AWB Limited, an Australian wheat grower organization, said the recent announcement that the United States would donate an additional 3 million tonnes of food aid, predominately wheat, into selected world markets was "primarily a vote-winning exercise in a Presidential election year."

The U.S. is Australia's main competitor in the international wheat market.

That the announcement came from Presidential candidate Al Gore was an indication that the wheat donation was politically motivated, said Trevor Flugge, AWB chairman.

"Mr. Gore said it was a win-win situation for American farmers, but we see it as a lose-lose situation for Australian growers and a lose-lose situation for the international wheat market," Mr. Flugge said. "Based on previous experience, there is a significant risk that these additional food aid donations will displace commercial business in key markets around the world."

The AWB also announced recently a year-long agreement with the Japan Food Agency to sell a minimum of 900,000 tonnes of Australian wheat to Japan. Under the agreement, AWB will supply 200,000 tonnes of prime hard wheat from Queensland and New South Wales and 700,000 tonnes of Australian standard white blend from Western Australia.

The total tonnage shipped to Japan in 2000 is expected to again exceed 1.1 million tonnes.MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — Rice that has been genetically modified with the measles gene offers great potential as an oral vaccination in rice flour milk for very young children that can't take the traditional injected vaccine. A team of Australian research scientists has been researching the rice-modified vaccine for the past three or four years.

Scientists from the Alfred Hospital infectious disease unit said they have successfully created a measles-modified tobacco and are now moving into lettuce and rice.

Similar research also has been conducted in the United States for hepatitis B and cholera and scientists are starting to look at genetic modification for the HIV virus, which can lead to AIDS.

About a million children die of measles each year, most under the age of one.

The researchers said the rice milk oral vaccine also could be a useful alternative in countries like Africa where measles is a problem and where keeping traditional vaccines cold is often difficult.