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Horse vaccine kills GE-free NZ

18 June 2008

Horse vaccine kills GE-free NZ

The release of a live genetically engineered virus would kill New Zealand's 'GE free' status and, as discovered with possums and didymo, create huge risks through a lack of containment, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

Her comments come after the Environmental Risk Management Authority announced it is considering an application from the NZ Racing Board and Equine Health Association to import a GE horse vaccine.

"I am amazed that for the benefit of Australasia's gambling industry we are putting our GE Free status at risk," Ms Fitzsimons says.

"Of course we already have genetic engineering here but the Green Party has been successful in keeping it in the laboratory or under strict control in field trials. We can still boast our farms and environment are GE-free.

"There is already a vaccine for horse 'flu approved for use here, and the only control proposed for the GE vaccine is that it be administered by a vet. It is proposed that there should be no monitoring of the outcomes.

"The applicants have claimed that the new virus can't multiply in mammals, including the horse, and that it dies after a day. They also claim the host virus is stable. However, that doesn't mean the modified virus is.

"ERMA and submitters must scrutinised the evidence for these claims very carefully. We need to know what tests have actually been done, and the full results must be released publicly. We can't afford to be wrong.

"All GE organisms raise the possibility of horizontal gene transfer where genetic material from one species jumps across to another unrelated species, by a process other than usual reproduction. Can this happen inside the horse, and affect a longer lived virus, which perhaps then infects other animals?

"It seems incredible that with our experience of rabbits, possums and didymo, ERMA could approve a GE organism throughout the land without thought of long-term consequences. Why pick an invisible little virus that we can't find if we need to?

"If the Government is so keen to destroy our GE-free status, my choice would have been something we can actually keep track of, like an elephant."


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