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Genetically Modified Maize Vaccine Can Aid Farmers in Developing Nations

In many developing nations around the world, small-scale farmers often rely upon poultry farming solely for their livelihood. Unfortunately, for many of these farmers, this livelihood has been affected by the Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV), a contagious and fatal viral disease that infects a wide range of both domestic and wild birds, including chickens. NDV also has a devastating effect on commercial poultry production. Since vaccines for poultry are too costly for these farmers who eke out very meager livings, a cost effective solution needed to be developed. Fortunately, researchers in Mexico have done just that.

Researchers in Mexico have been able to genetically modify maize crops to create an edible vaccine for poultry against the Newcastle Disease Virus. The researchers, including Octavio Guerrero-Andrade of the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV) in Guanajuato, inserted a gene from the Newcastle Disease Virus into the maize crops’ DNA. Chickens that ate the genetically modified (GM) maize produced antibodies against the virus. The maize also provided a level of protection against infection comparable to that of commercial vaccines.

The researchers’ findings were published online in Transgenic Research earlier this month. They hope these genetically modified maize crops can help small-scale poultry farmers protect their flocks from NDV.

“The disease is important and a big killer,” said Frands Dolberg of the Network for Smallholder Poultry Development, which works with partners in developing countries to promote poultry farming as a way of improving livelihoods.

According to the findings, vaccines against the disease that can be given to poultry through food already exist, but are not usually available in the small quantities that are often required by single families or villages.

“There is a big problem in delivering the vaccine to the many millions of poor poultry keepers around the world, and the genetically modified (GM) maize could be a possibility,” said Frands Dolberg.

Farmers in developing nations struggle every day to make a living against unfavorable conditions. They also struggle to access new technologies that can help better their lives, including getting vital vaccines that can save their poultry farms. With this genetically modified maize that the researchers in Mexico have developed, these needed vaccines will be easily accessible, less costly, and won’t require refrigeration like traditional vaccines do. It will ultimately help save and secure the farmers’ futures.

About the Author: Alisa Baumer is a life sciences grant researcher and has first-hand knowledge of the latest trends in genetically modified food. To read more about Alisa go to

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