Many Australians were outraged last week to find out that the California based company, PaxVax, had applied to the Australian government for a licence to use 1000 Australian adults and children as guinea pigs to test its experimental, genetically modified, live bacterial cholera vaccine.
In only a week, the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator had received so many emails from troubled Aussie citizens that it added a post to its website assuring the public that it had not yet issued a license to the company.
But if history is any indicator, the Aussie gene regulator will probably grant the license to PaxVax, just as it approved a license, in 2003, to the Australian Commonwealth Serum Laboratory (CSL) to release its genetically modified cholera vaccine, Orochol, into commercial use. The gene regulator declared, in its risk assessment document, that the risk of releasing the live genetically engineered cholera organism was ‘very low’ or ‘negligible’, despite several public submissions the regulator had received objecting to the release of the GMO vaccine into the Australian population and environment.
The popular outcry fell on deaf bureaucratic ears since the Orochol vaccine had already been experimentally tested on Australian travelers and on children in third world countries after the Therapeutic Goods Administration had fast tracked and approved the GMO product for commercial use 2 years before the Gene Regulator had conducted its risk assessment and issued a license.
Apart from the strangely reversed methodologies used by Australian regulators, many pundits asked why the Australian Commonwealth Serum Laboratory would be acting on such an urgent need to produce millions of experimental GM cholera vaccines for the Australian population when it was not a pressing public health issue.
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