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Agresearch's MS Claims Embarrassing Nonsense

6 May 2001

Agresearch's MS Claims Embarrassing Nonsense - Professor

Claims by AgResearch that their experiment to put human genes into cows could help Multiple Sclerosis sufferers have been rejected as embarrassing nonsense by a Professor of Biological Sciences at Waikato University.

A New Zealand website - www.genesanddairy.com - which is edited by Professor Dick Wilkins, quotes an expert in the field as saying "the medical claims made by AgResearch were largely a nonsense" and states that scientists found the medical justification for the experiment as "potentially very embarrassing and damaging, in that the basic science behind the work would simply not stand up to serious review".

Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons today said she was pleased that the spin employed by AgResearch to try and make an ethically disturbing experiment acceptable to the public had been exposed.

"I have always said that I have every compassion for MS sufferers and that the Greens do not oppose the use of gene technology in medicine in a contained laboratory," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"However it is increasingly clear to me that the real purpose of these experiments is to perfect the techniques of putting human genes into cows in order to produce genetically engineered dairy food and have nothing to do with MS.

"Let's get the facts straight. A human gene has been put into calves so they will produce a human protein - myelin base protein (MBP) - in their milk. MS sufferers have been told this protein offers the best hope of treatment for their terrible illness.

"But MBP is available now from human tissue and could be tested to see if it really is effective. The AgResearch trial will not tell us anything about the usefulness of MBP. It will simply try to produce it in large quantities. That could also be done without using cows - for example by using micro-organisms or cell cultures in the laboratory," she said.

"Now we have qualified medical scientists saying 'there is no robust evidence, even in mice, that MBP had any useful effect'."

"Professor Wilkins' website, which is dedicated to gene technology and cows, has validated comments that I have been making all week - that AgResearch are using the MS angle as a means to manipulate the public into accepting work designed to produce genetically engineered dairy foods," she said.

"MS sufferers all over New Zealand have been cruelly deceived. I am shocked that scientists would use such vulnerable people for their own purposes," said Ms Fitzsimons.

Ends


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