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US spin on GE backfires - just like GE would

US spin on GE backfires - just like GE would

Even an expert sent by the United States Government to spin the benefits of genetic engineering admitted today that "pharming" was dangerous and should not be permitted in circumstances other than full containment, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.

"The Green Party agrees with this," Ms Fitzsimons said. "It shows that America's own spin on GE has backfired. It is also highly embarrassing for the New Zealand Government, which has stated that pharming is likely to be the major benefit for New Zealand from GE."

Pharming is the genetic engineering of food crops or animals to cause them to produce pharmaceuticals. New Zealand is already doing this with cows at AgResearch and sheep in the Waikato, engineered to produce human proteins.

Professor Martina Newell-McGloughlin, who heads the University of California's biotechnology research and education programme, was brought to New Zealand by the United States Embassy as part of an American effort to put a positive spin on GE.

Prof Newell-McGloughlin today, in a public address in Wellington, said she was quite opposed to pharming unless it could be fully contained in a covered environment, or somewhere where no food crops were grown - like the middle of a desert. Even one contaminated kernel out of thousands was too much of a risk, she said.

"The risks of pharming are two-fold," Ms Fitzsimons said. "The primary risk is that crops that would look identical to food crops could be mixed in with food crops or could contaminate them. The risks to health of eating medicines not designed for you could be serious. Second, even if this contamination could be prevented, it would harm our export markets because they would know contamination might occur."

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