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Hobbs fudging GE sheep and cow dilemma

Hobbs fudging GE sheep and cow dilemma

19 November 2001

Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons today called on Environment Minister Marian Hobbs to urgently clarify whether the Govt will allow new experiments involving genetically engineered sheep and cows with human genes to go ahead.

"This is extremely urgent, because news has broken today that the two companies who are running the existing field trials in New Zealand involving cows and sheep with human genes are about to jointly lodge a new field trial application," said Ms Fitzsimons.

PPL Therapeutics and Celentis (AgResearch's commercial arm) wouldn't tell NZPA what the new project involves, but said it is related to pharmaceuticals.

Ms Fitzsimons said Ms Hobbs had created a climate of muddle and confusion after two contradictory statements last week about whether new GE sheep and cow trials could go ahead.

"I don't know, and nor will anyone else who followed Ms Hobbs comments last week, whether the Government has accepted or rejected the commission's recommendation that wherever possible non-food animals (or animals less likely to find their way into the food chain) be used to produce human proteins [Recommendation 7.5].

Early last week, the Government said they accepted the intention of the commission that GE sheep and cows should not enter the food chain, but found that 'no further action is required'. Then on Friday Ms Hobbs said; "we have accepted that recommendation".

"Look, Ms Hobbs has to tell it like it is. Either the Government is going to allow free range for new experiments involving human genes in cows and sheep, or they are going to accept the commission's recommendation that other animals less likely to end up on the dinner table should be used.

"How is ERMA going to make a decision on this new field trial application, almost certain to involve putting human genes into milk-producing animals, when the rules change day by day? This Government has lost its nerve on genetic engineering, and it's trying to fudge the important questions."

Ms Fitzsimons said she was strongly against the use of cows and sheep to produce human proteins on both ethical and animal welfare grounds. News of such field trials could seriously damage the reputation of our milk and meat exports, she said.

ENDS

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