Human-Genes-In-Cows Application Is Food-Oriented
A hearing in Wellington today in which government agency AgResearch is applying to put human genes into dairy cattle is food-oriented, despite publicity about medical benefits, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.
"AgResearch has carried out a major public relations exercise pointing out that its application to the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) could lead to a breakthrough in finding a cure for multiple sclerosis," Ms Fitzsimons said. "I hope this is correct as it is a dreadful disease and any way of finding a cure, including genetic engineering, should be looked at positively."
However the detailed application by AgResearch was targetted more towards nutritional changes, she said.
"There's not a lot in today's application details that give multiple sclerosis sufferers cause for great hope," Ms Fitzsimons said. "But there's a lot about changing food values of milk, especially so as to make cow's milk more like human breast milk. AgResearch needs to explain why it is doing this."
Ms Fitzsimons said the idea needed a wider public debate, with ethical considerations argued as well as today's strictly scientific ERMA hearing.
"Putting human DNA into cows is a highly contentious act. But there is no plan for any official ethical debate about this at all. ERMA is charged with looking at scientifically-assessed environmental risks only.
"The hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars which have already gone into this human-genes-in-cows research needs to be evaluated also. Are taxpayers getting value for money when people around the world are turning off these transgenic products?" Ms Fitzsimons said.
"New Zealand desperately needs a Royal commission of enquiry into genetic engineering rather than lurching from one application to another with only narrow scientific debate, and little public reassurance."