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Greens welcome backtrack on GE sheep-without-wool

AgResearch's backtrack on producing genetically engineered "naked" sheep was welcomed today by Green Party Agriculture Spokesperson Ian Ewen-Street.

"This follows backdowns on genetic engineering from other agricultural sectors following publicity by the Green Party," he said today. "For example the kiwifruit and apple industries have now pledged to be GE-free and the Dairy Board is doubting we will see genetically engineered milk, despite earlier board hype about possible advantages of such milk."

Mr Ewen-Street said he was puzzled that the proposed GE sheep-without-wool experiment was still being publicised on AgResearch's website under the heading of "The Peerless Shearless", and promoted by AgResearch with the sentence: "We will report on the options for producing such a wool-less meat sheep, and hold a series of discussions with sheep industry leaders and other stakeholders to inform and interest them about the concept of genetic engineering..." According to Mr Ewen-Street: "AgResearch is one of New Zealand's principal genetic engineers and is pouring taxpayers money into a number of GE schemes without any cost-benefit analysis or comparison to the market benefits of New Zealand instead becoming organic."

Mr Ewen-Street, number three on the Greens' party list, is an organic pastoral farmer based in Marlborough. He will be issuing the Green Party's agriculture and rural affairs policy in Wellington today. The policy calls for an "Organic Nation" by the year 2020. This means having half of New Zealand's production certified organic and GE-free by 2020, and the remainder in the process of conversion. One of the aims of this is to meet the burgeoning worldwide demand for organic produce, which attracts high premiums.

"The irony of the GE sheep-without-wool plan is that one of our candidates in the general election is producing sheep organically which shed their fleeces naturally in the summer but retain them in winter. The sheep are also naturally resistant to internal parasites. We don't need to risk the genetic engineering pathway, to improve our farming practices," Mr Ewen-Street said.


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