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Plans For GE Cows Must Go To Bio Ethics Council

The new proposal from AgResearch to create transgenic cattle must be referred to the Bio Ethics Council before ERMA approves the application.

"The serious ethical issues must be first addressed as the Royal Commission recommended, especially given the public concern about use of human genes, the cruelty to the animals, and that there are actually no proven medical outputs intended" said Jon Carapiet for GE-Free NZ ( in food and environment) "These experiments are like a scientific 'fishing' exercise that may be good for investors , but may be bad for New Zealand. There is a clear threat to our export image", said Jon.

The public will also be concerned by ERMA's refusal to automatically transfer public submissions from the earlier draft application. Over 350 public submissions to ERMA on cattle with human genes have not been automatically transferred to the new application as was originally suggested by ERMA.

"This is just another ploy to avoid public submissions being made to this controversial experiment." said Susie Lees of GE Free New Zealand. "They now appear to think they are doing the public a favour by notifying it at all."

However, ERMA should expect many more public submissions unless they act now to refer the application to the Bio Ethics Council, said Jon Carapiet.

" Let's be clear that the Royal Commission said food animals should NOT be used in this way, and certainly not before looking at alternative treatments. If the reason is really for medical research the Recommendation 9.1 and 9.2 requires the Toi te Taiao- the Bio Ethics Council- to develop ethical guidelines for it." said Jon

"The government currently has a legislative vacuum while they sort out their response to the Royal Commission. They must call in this application and refer it to Sir Paul Reeves and his team" Mr Carapiet said.

The application, if approved,will allow for cloned cattle with human and mouse genes as well as other mammals. and comes the same day as GeneWatch UK publish an investigation describing inadequate controls causing untold suffering of GM and cloned animals, techniques as "very inefficient" causing many animals to suffer from "unintended effects or be discarded as 'failures'."

The previous application resulted in the birth of only 4 live calves from 51cows, recipients of genetically modified embryos containing a human gene . Only six cows held their embryos to term, and four gave birth to transgenic calves, no reports on the current health of these 4 calves has been issued. Abortion, premature death and infertility are all common problems with this technology.

The main reasons given for the use of transgenic cows with genes from other mammals is for potential medical use and drug production however the GeneWatch UK investigation suggests safer, more humane alternatives are available. GeneWatch UK want an independent inquiry into the use of GM and cloned animals in medical research.

More info
Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370
Susie Lees 03 546 7966

GENEWATCH PRESS RELEASE

Wednesday 15th May 2002

Inadequate controls causing untold suffering of GM and cloned animals

Today, GeneWatch UK publishes a 100 page investigation into GM and cloned animals (1). Over half a million GM animals - mainly mice - were involved in experiments in UK laboratories in 2000. Worldwide, cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, monkeys, quail, chickens, rabbits, rats, fish and insects have all been genetically modified or cloned.

GM and cloning techniques are very inefficient and many animals suffer from unintended effects or are discarded as 'failures'. Abortion, premature death and infertility are regular side effects of these genetic technologies. Secrecy surrounds the licensing process for experiments with GM and cloned animals in the UK - there is no public information on who is allowed to do what, where and why (2). The extent of animal suffering and the reasons for it are being hidden from public scrutiny and debate.

"Hundreds of thousands of animals are suffering in secret genetic modification experiments in UK labs every year," said Dr Sue Mayer, GeneWatch's Director and co-author of the report. "The whole area must be opened up for public scrutiny and debate."

The main reasons given for genetically modifying and cloning animals are medical research, drug and chemical safety testing, for drug production in milk or eggs, to produce meat and milk more efficiently, and to provide organs for transplantation. The GeneWatch investigation reveals that in agriculture and drug and organ production there are safer and more humane alternatives to the use of GM or cloned animals that can meet human needs.

In medical research, excitement and hype about genetics is leading to a vast increase in the numbers of animals genetically modified to have painful and distressing diseases. Because a disease in GM animals is usually very different from the same disease in humans, much medical research using GM animals may result in findings that are not relevant to human disease at all.

"Scientists are getting carried away with gene hype and animals are suffering as a result. There is simply no justification for the genetic modification and cloning of animals for use in agriculture, as drug factories or for organ production," said Dr Mayer. "The use of GM animals in medical research must undergo a complete review as the science does not support the vast abuse of animals that is taking place."

GeneWatch UK is calling for an end to secrecy surrounding experiments with GM and cloned animals and tighter regulations to prevent their use in agriculture, as pets, for drug production or as organ donors. GeneWatch also believes there must be an independent inquiry into the use of GM and cloned animals in medical research.

"Scientists, industry and the Government must take their responsibilities seriously. The prospect of quick profits is driving much of the research. Genetic modification and cloning have become scientifically fashionable whilst the interests of animals are being disregarded," said Dr Mayer.

Ends

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