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Progress Cited in Fight Against Contagious Poultry Disease

April 17, 1992

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Agriculture Department scientists have created the first genetically engineered vaccine against the highly contagious Marek’s disease that strikes poultry.

″This vaccine has already been shown in lab tests to protect chickens against Marek’s disease,″ said Keyvan Nazerian, a USDA veterinary medical officer who works at the Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory in East Lansing, Mich. ″Now it’s being evaluated for its efficacy compared to other existing vaccines.″

Vaccines have kept chicken flocks relatively free of Marek’s disease over the last 20 years. The disease can kill large numbers of birds if they are not vaccinated at one day of age. It previously cost U.S. poultry producers $200 million annually.

But currently used vaccines use the whole virus, and some include genes that may cause disease as well as genes that prompt immunity to the disease.

The new vaccine contains only the gene that promotes immunity to Marek’s disease, Nazerian said. The immunity gene was removed from the whole virus and inserted into non-disease-causing fowlpox virus, used as a carrier to get the Marek’s gene into the chicken.

″A genetically engineered vaccine such as the one we’ve developed has the potential of delivering not only the immunity gene from Marek’s disease, but also other genes that can give immunity to other diseases of poultry,″ said Nazerian.

He said researchers are seeking a patent on the vaccine and it may be commercially available in about two years. It was developed through a cooperative research and development agreement with Nippon Zeon Co. Ltd. of Japan, which also plans to license the technology.

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WASHINGTON (AP) - The United States will sell Costa Rica $15 million worth of U.S. wheat under the Food for Peace program.

″This is another important step in helping Costa Rica meet its food needs,″ said Secretary of Agriculture Edward Madigan. ″With an agreement such as this, the United States shows its continued commitment to developing countries. In addition, we hope to establish a strong U.S. agricultural presence in this market.″

The agreement, which must be ratified by the Costa Rican Congress, will provide financing for approximately 90,000 metric tons of wheat.

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WASHINGTON (AP) - There were 286,000 hired workers on farms and ranches in California, Florida, Texas and New Mexico during the week of March 8-14, the Agriculture Department says. That compared with 254,000 workers during the February survey week.

Average March wage rates received by hired workers in the four surveyed states ranged from $5.13 an hour in Texas to $6.80 in California. Wages were higher when compared with February except in New Mexico.

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