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By Dr. Mercola | mercola
If you’ve ever had qualms about eating genetically modified (GM) foods, you’d likely be deeply concerned about receiving a GM vaccine as well.
Such vaccines are already being produced – some are even on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommended vaccine schedule – even though, as is the case with GM foods, we know very little about their long-term effects.
In the interview above, Vicky Debold, PhD, RN, director of research and patient safety with the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), spoke with me about the many reasons to be very wary of this new technology, which is far more intertwined with other biotech “innovations,” like GM food, than you might think.
Nobody Knows What Happens When You Inject People with GM Vaccines
There have been some fair warnings, though. In 2006, researchers wrote in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health:1
“Genetically modified (GM) viruses and genetically engineered virus-vector vaccines possess significant unpredictability and a number of inherent harmful potential hazards… Horizontal transfer of genes… is well established. New hybrid virus progenies resulting from genetic recombination between genetically engineered vaccine viruses and their naturally occurring relatives may possess totally unpredictable characteristics with regard to host preferences and disease-causing potentials.
…There is inadequate knowledge to define either the probability of unintended events or the consequences of genetic modifications.”
Though this was six years ago, little has changed even as the technology has advanced. Today we have several different types of GM vaccines in production, development or research phases, such as:
- DNA vaccines: DNA for a microbe’s antigens are introduced into the body, with the expectation that your cells will take up that DNA, which then instructs your cells to make antigen molecules. As the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (a division of the National Institutes of Health) put it, “In other words, the body’s own cells become vaccine-making factories.”2
- Naked DNA vaccines: A type of DNA vaccine in which microscopic particles coated with DNA are administered directly into your cells.
- Recombinant Vector vaccines: Similar to DNA vaccines, but they use a virus or bacteria to act as a vector (or “carrier) to introduce microbial DNA into your cells.
There are experimental GM vaccines being developed that use tumorigenic cancer cells and cells from humans, dogs, monkeys, cows, pigs, rodents, birds and insects. What happens when foreign DNA is inserted into the human body is a mystery. Will it trigger undesirable changes in human cells or tissues? Will it combine or exchange genetic material with human DNA? Will it transfer to future generations? No one knows…
“We don’t know what portion of the [GM] DNA can be incorporated into our own genome, we don’t know what portion could be inheritable to our children, we also don’t know what happens when the immune system is exposed to DNA that has been recombined in lots of ways that the human body, through the course of time, has never had any exposure to… what diseases of the immune system may occur because of these exposures,” Debold said.
“Use of foreign DNA in various forms has the potential to cause a great deal of trouble, not only because there is the potential for it to recombine with our own DNA, there is the potential for it to turn the DNA ‘switches,’ the epigenetic parts of the DNA, on and off.”
Vaccine Adjuvants Used in GM Vaccines May be Even More Toxic Than Usual
An adjuvant is added to a vaccine in order to boost the body’s immune reaction to the viral or bacterial antigen contained in a vaccine. Under ideal circumstances, the antigen is what your body responds to and makes antibodies against (e.g. the lab altered viral or bacterial organisms being injected).
By boosting your body’s immune response in this artificial way, the vaccine manufacturer can use a smaller amount of antigen, which makes production less expensive and the product more profitable (although definitely not safer, as adjuvants are usually foreign substances, metals or chemicals which can cause the immune system to overreact and attack the host body.)
Aluminum is a common vaccine adjuvant and also a well-known neurotoxin that can cause chronic inflammation in the body, including the brain. Although aluminum adjuvants have been added to inactivated vaccines used for decades in the U.S., aluminum-based adjuvants are not strong enough for GM vaccines, according to Debold, so drug companies are primarily interested in using oil-based adjuvants, like squalene, and other substances that can hyper-stimulate the body’s immune response.
While oil-based vaccine adjuvants like squalene have been proven to generate powerful acute inflammatory immune responses that stimulate increased production of antibodies, they have also been associated with unresolved, chronic inflammation in the body that can cause brain and immune system dysfunction, including autoimmune diseases.3 While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has so far not licensed any vaccines distributed in the U.S. that contain squalene as an adjuvant, squalene adjuvants are used in some vaccines sold in Europe and other countries.
GM Vaccines You May Have Given to Your Kids…
Many are unaware that, despite the completely unknown long-term health consequences, GM vaccines are already in use and have been administered to American infants, children and adults for many years. Among them:
- Hepatitis B vaccine: An inactivated recombinant DNA vaccine licensed for newborn infants and children in 1991, in which parts of the hepatitis B virus gene are cloned into yeast
- Rotavirus vaccine: Live attenuated vaccines first licensed for infants and children licensed in 2006, which either contain genetically engineered human rotavirus strains or human-bovine hybridized reassortment rotavirus strains4
- HPV vaccine (Gardasil or Cervarix): A recombinant vaccine licensed in 2006, which is prepared from virus-like particles (VLP’s) and may also include use of an insect-cell Baculovirus expression vector system for production
Then there are those “hybrid” vaccines that cross the (very narrow) threshold into the GM food realm… for instance, goats are being genetically engineered to become “pharm animals” that carry vaccines in their milk. If the experiments being conducted by researchers from Texas A&M are successful, they will produce an “edible” malaria vaccine, with the ultimate goal being that children drinking the milk will become vaccinated in the process. If vaccines in your milk sounds a bit to “out there,” it shouldn’t, as there are many connections between the companies that make GM food and those that make GM vaccines.
The Close Ties Between GM Foods and GM Vaccines
The companies that make vaccines and GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are deeply intertwined, only recently spinning off or merging to specialize in one or the other. Most vaccine revenues are earned by five companies that together held nearly 80 percent of the market in 2010:5
- Sanofi Pasteur
- Merck & Co.
These companies, which use genetic engineering to produce vaccines, are also primarily responsible for the introduction of genetic engineering into the food supply. For instance:
- Genetic engineering giant Syngenta (third in total sales in the commercial agricultural seeds market) is the progeny of parent companies Novartis and AstraZeneca.
- In 2001, Bayer CropScience became a leading genetically engineered crop producer with its purchase of Aventis’ agribusiness division.6
- In 2004, Aventis merged with and into Sanofi. The new Sanofi-Aventis Group became the world’s 3rd largest pharmaceutical company. Aventis Pasteur, the vaccine division of Sanofi-Aventis Group, changed its name to Sanofi Pasteur. Sanofi Pasteur is the vaccines division of Sanofi Group. It is the largest company in the world devoted entirely to vaccines.
- Prior to splitting its genetically engineered crop business from its vaccine business, Aventis was known primarily for the StarLink corn debacle (a type of GM corn grown for use in animal feed that contaminated the U.S. food supply in 2000). Bayer now sells Aventis’s Liberty Link crops, engineered to tolerate high doses of the company’s toxic herbicide called Liberty (glufosinate).7
- Stauffer Seeds was a spin-off of Stauffer Chemical, formerly a division of Novartis.8 Stauffer Seeds and Prodigene conducted clinical trials on pigs using an edible vaccine for transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV) expressed in corn.9
- Prodigene was caught contaminating the food supply with its edible vaccine and the company went out of business, but not before it received a $6-million investment from the Governors Biotechnology Partnership, chaired by Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. Vilsack, now the Obama Administration’s USDA Secretary, didn’t want any restrictions placed on experimental pharma crops. In reaction to suggestions that pharma crops should be kept away from food crops, Vilsack argued that ‘we should not overreact and hamstring this industry.’10
- Prior to 1997, Monsanto (the world leader in GM crops) operated under three parts, the Ag Business (for agricultural products), the Chemicals Business, and the Pharmaceuticals Business, which is now Pharmacia, a subsidiary of Pfizer, the biggest pharmaceutical company in the world and the largest manufacturer of vaccines for food animals.11, 12
- GlaxoSmithKline, while producing few products for food or agriculture, has been genetically engineering plants, animals and microorganisms for use in vaccines, pharmaceuticals and medical research.13
Bill Gates, Warren Buffet Supporting Propagation of Both Vaccines and GMOs
The most influential, and, of course, richest advocates for genetic engineering and vaccines are Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. They have business as well as philanthropic interests in these technologies and their Gates Foundation (Buffet has donated over $1.5 billion to the Foundation) allows them to mix business with philanthropy.
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