American Journal of Bioethics.

Ethics, Biotechnology, and Global Health: The Development of Vaccines in Transgenic Plants

As compared with conventional vaccine production systems, plant-made vaccines (PMVs) are said to enjoy a range of advantages including cost of production and ease of storage for distribution in developing countries. In this article, we introduce the science of PMV production, and address ethical issues associated with development and clinical testing of PMVs within three interrelated domains: PMVs as transgenic plants; PMVs as clinical research materials; and PMVs as agents of global health. We present three conclusions: first, while many of the ethical issues raised by PMVs are familiar, PMVs add a new dimension to old issues, and raise some novel issues for ethicists and policy-makers; secondly, it is premature to promise broad applicability of PMVs across the developing world without having demonstrated their feasibility; thirdly, in particular, proponents of PMVs as a solution to global health problems must, as a condition of the ethical conduct of their research, define the commercial feasibility of PMVs for distribution in the developing world.

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Volume 6, Issue 4
July 2006