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Application Would Allow Smorgasbord Of GE Cows

A new application by Agresearch to genetically engineer cows would allow them to create almost any type of transgenic cow that takes their fancy, Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.

"This guts of this application is that it would allow Agresearch to develop unlimited numbers of a wide range of new transgenic cows, containing human, sheep, mice, or goat genes.

"It is a huge escalation in their efforts to develop transgenic cows as pharmaceutical factories. It would set the scene for a cow smorgasbord - a cow with a goat gene here, another with a human gene there.

"It is extremely concerning that, if this application is approved, Agresearch will be able to create pretty much any new transgenic cow that they dream up without going back to the Environmental Risk Management Authority for a new approval."

Ms Fitzsimons questioned whether New Zealand wanted to become known as the country which used genetically engineered cows to produce human and animal proteins for drugs.

"We can kiss goodbye to our clean green image as producers of natural food once we get that kind of reputation. Overseas consumers may well turn away from our butter and dairy products once they hear that."

Ms Fitzsimons said she found it interesting that Agresearch had attempted to bypass the need to notify the public by applying for a development instead of a field trial, even though the cows will be kept outside.

"After massive public opposition to the existing trial of cows with human genes, it seems they are keen to avoid the public being involved in the approval process. I congratulate ERMA on recognising the public interest in this application and opening it up to public submissions. However it is hard to see how they are going to assess risk when the number and types of gene combinations are still unknown."

"Agresearch is a Government-owned company. I have to question its role of leading us down this garden path when very few New Zealanders, particularly Maori, support the genetic engineering of animals," she said.

"Agresearch is jumping the gun. The Bioethics Council recommended by the Royal Commission has not even been set up yet, but it will be redundant in terms of genetically engineered cow experiments if this application goes ahead."

Ends

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