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diet of animals in the country where it is intended to work.

Alternatively, a second transmissible GMO that protects animals from the first could be developed for use in non-target countries. "We ought to at least consider these things and ask whether they are possible," says Henzell. "But there's been nothing done so far."

And the potential for transmissible GMOs to spread to other countries is just one of the safety issues. What if the mouse virus- a modified mouse cytomegalovirus- jumps species and starts infecting one of Australia's own endangered rodents, or even people? "You can't assume that the modified virus will act like the parental strain," warns Adrian Gibbs, an expert on viral evolution formerly at the Australian National University in Canberra.

So far PAC-CRC has shown only that the mouse GMO does not infect rats, and that three species of native rodents are immune to the unmodified virus. It is gearing up to conduct safety experiments that will test the virus's ability to infect a wide range of species, including some rare mouse species in the US. The ultimate experiment will be releasing the virus. If it turns out that PAC-CRC has got it wrong, there may be little anyone can do about it.


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Contact: Claire Bowles
claire.bowles@rbi.co.uk
44-207-331-2751
New Scientist
27-Aug-2003


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