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Greens expose naked GE sheep scheme

Genetically engineered naked sheep, with no wool on them at all, is New
Zealand's latest "mad" biotechnology scheme, the Green Party said today.

Party agriculture spokesperson Ian Ewen-Street, an organic pastoral farmer
based in Marlborough, said the plan has been devised by the Crown Research
Institute AgResearch, at its Lincoln base. The scientist leading the
research, Dr Andy Bray, has said on the AgResearch website he is about to
try to sell the idea to sheep industry leaders, with the aim of producing
large numbers of naked sheep for mainstream agriculture.

"I have to ask our government scientists, is nothing sacred," Mr Ewen-Street
said. "When I first heard of this I thought it was a joke. Next they'll be
trying to engineer dogs which don't bark and cows we can't milk.

"But seriously, there are major questions of animal cruelty involved here,
especially when considering sheep without wool in the middle of winter."

Mr Ewen-Street said the AgResearch scientists were arguing that some farmers
specialising in meat production would prefer to avoid the hassles that wool
somethings brings.

"AgResearch is pitching to farmers using the argument of convenience.
Dagging, crutching and treating for flystrike are all unpleasant jobs, which
could be avoided, the scientists argue, if sheep had no wool.

"There's also the argument that wool isn't fetching much for farmers at
present under New Zealand's radical free market policies."

Mr Ewen-Street said the genetic engineering scheme had come out of a major
project funded by the taxpayer, and carried out by AgResearch and Otago
University to build a total "genetic map" of the sheep, with genes then
added or subtracted. Government scientists hoped to produce "designer
sheep", with wool-less meaty sheep for meat farmers, and extra woolly sheep
for wool farmers.

"But the economics of this is greatly outweighed by the damage to our image
overseas from these mad-cap GE schemes. It is absolutely certain that
European consumers will boycott New Zealand produce if we continue along
this route."

Mr Ewen-Street, who is number three on the Greens' party list, will issue
the Green Party agriculture and rural affairs policy to the Press Gallery
today. It will include a call for New Zealand agriculture to be GE-free.

ends

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