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Pig Growth Hormone Sneaks Into New Zealand

17 February 2002

Green MP Sue Kedgley today said many consumers will be put off pork when they learn that a new growth hormone made by genetically engineered bacteria has been secretly approved for use on New Zealand pigs.

"I have discovered through written Parliamentary Questions and OIA requests that pig farmers can now use an injectable growth hormone to make pigs grow by up to 20 per cent more in the last month of their lives.

"Consumers will not be able to avoid eating pork from pigs that have been administered with the growth hormone because there is no requirement to disclose this on a label," said Ms Kedgley.

The hormone Porcine Somatotropin (PST) is injected into the necks of pigs every day with a rapid gas-fired injection gun for the last 30 days of their lives.

The hormone, produced using genetically engineered bacteria, was approved for import by the Animal Remedies Board on 12 October 2001. A similar hormone for cows, bovine somatotropin, was refused approval by MAF last year because of concerns about European consumers refusing to buy hormone-treated milk and meat.

"This pig growth hormone is highly controversial and is not even approved by the FDA for use in America.

"I am alarmed that it has been sneaked into New Zealand without any public consultation or discussions with either key animal welfare groups such as the SPCA, or consumers. I am also concerned that the Minister of Agriculture refused my OIA request to release all the information provided to the Animal Welfare Advisory Council on the animal welfare implications of using this hormone."

Ms Kedgley said there were serious animal welfare implications for pigs injected with the hormone. "Studies show there is a relationship between use of this hormone and the increased frequency and severity of leg disorders such as lameness, which is hardly surprising given the increased weight this hormone promotes and the lack of exercise available to factory farmed pigs," she said.

Supporting documents released under the OIA show use of this hormone makes pigs sleep more - up to 83 per cent of their lives - and the series of injections can lead to abcesses. Advice from the hormone manufacturer is to inject pigs in the neck to prevent the meat being downgraded.

Ms Kedgley said given that the hormone would be used right up to the date of slaughter, Australian officials had acknowledged there would likely be residues of the artificial hormone in pork from treated pigs.

"We urgently need new labelling laws in New Zealand which would require growth promotants, antibiotic feed enhancers and growth hormones to be disclosed on the label."


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