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Vets Say Going GM Free Unsound

Going GM free is an unsound position for New Zealand farming, the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) says.

Commenting on their submission to the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, NZVA chief executive Murray Gibb says that GM technology is already a valuable part of human and veterinary medicine and its importance in the development of safe and effective vaccines, diagnostic and therapeutic agents will increase considerably in the next few years.

“It is essential that New Zealand’s animal-based industries have access to these products,” Dr Gibb says.

“New Zealand’s animal health market is tiny by international standards, with approximately $170,000,000 in sales at the wholesale level per annum. The market cannot sustain its own animal pharmaceutical industry and relies on overseas production of animal remedies, which are increasingly dependent on GM technology.”

“Diminished access to GM products could have serious consequences for animal health and welfare. Overseas perceptions of animal welfare standards in New Zealand are very important to our trade and this must be protected,” Dr Gibb says.

“The potential benefit new generation animal GM vaccines offer to public health often goes unrecognised. These products will probably reduce the use of antibiotics in farmed animals, particularly pigs and poultry. This will have a great impact in the control of antibiotic resistance in disease-causing bacteria, which in the long term will improve public health.

“A GM vaccine has already been used in New Zealand in the successful eradication of an animal disease. In 1976 Pseudorabies (Aujeszky’s Disease) was diagnosed in pigs in the North Island, and presented a serious barrier to trade. An Aujeszky’s vaccine containing a gene deletion marker (to differentiate between vaccine response immunity and that acquired from disease) was used to help eradicate the disease, using a combination of vaccination and blood testing.

“GM technology also allows the identification of markers in the genome of livestock which indicate desirable characteristics such as disease resistance. This has the potential to reduce animal suffering. A national sheep flock resistant to foot-rot is technically feasible,” Dr Gibb says.

“The Association believes each GM event or product carries with it a unique set of risks and these must be studied on a case by case basis. Safety must always be the prime consideration.

“An unbiased science-based approach is essential for considering the risks and benefits of GM proposals. We understand public fears but believe that confidence in the area of GM will emerge as its benefits are identified and experienced,” he says.


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