The Wistar Institute of Philadelphia, the nation's oldest biomedical research institution, says it ran
experiments in biotechnology in Argentina in the summer of 1986 without the knowledge or approval of the
U.S. or Argentine governments. The Institute said it was able to perform field testing of genetically
engineered vaccines for animals without informing either government because Argentina has no rules
governing the biotechnology industry and U.S. rules do not apply. The Institute worked in conjunction
with the Pan American Health Organization. In the July 1986 test, 20 cows were inoculated with a gene-
altered viral vaccine against rabies at an agricultural station in Azul, Argentina. In early September the
Argentine government heard about the test from a Wistar scientist and barred any further experimentation,
calling the experiment a "violation of ethical principles." A commission, named to study the incident, issued
3 reports criticizing test procedures for exposing [unknowing] farm workers and allowing the cows' milk to be
consumed by humans. U.S. regulatory officials say the incident raises questions about the adequacy of the
Reagan Administration's program to regulate the products of biotechnology research.
--Peter Montague, Ph.D.
Descriptor terms: wister institute, studies; biotechnology; industry; argentina; government; vaccines; pan american health organization; testing; regulations; reagan;