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ERMA's flawed decision reveals inadequacies

Press release- GE Free NZ- 3 May 2001

ERMA's flawed decision reveals inadequacies in the system. Yesterday's High Court decision supports ethical and environmental concerns.

"Trials of this type puts public health and the reputation of our quality exports at risk. The use of New Zealand as a testing ground for this type of research is unconscionable. We have already been informed that any detrimental result from these trials will have to be paid for by the New Zealand public."

"We are not against medical research in containment but have been given no assurances that cross-species infections will not result from the testing of transgenic animals with human genes in the open environment. There is as yet no evidence that a cure for multiple sclerosis will result, the increasing incidence of MS may also be a result of aspartame poisoning from diet products according to a recent world symposium on aspartame. Many of today's illnesses have been caused by modern foods and chemicals."

So far ERMA have approved all GE trials in our environment, despite strong evidence of risks being presented in submissions against the various trials.

The public is not only expected to pay for this type of debatable research but may also be expected to pay for a cleanup should any problems eventuate. Should there be any resulting profits from this research, it will of course be hived off by Celentis.

UK company PPL have also been trialling transgenic animals, something they could not have done in the UK without intense public opposition.We feel that PPL's approval for sheep with human genes should be reassessed in light of this decision.



Background

Agresearch's trial of cows with human genes was eventually approved in July year after some controversy. In October, Agresearch formed a stand alone company Celentis, which after signing a major partnership agreement with CSL, Australia's largest investor in biopharmaceutical research, signed up for a similar venture with PPL Therapeutics to focus on the production of pharmaceutical and nutraceutical protein from the milk of transgenic cows. On April 11th this year an article in the UK Guardian stated that PPL have failed to raise funds on the stock market and may have to go 'cap in hand' to its development partner Bayer, facing a real struggle to pay for its new factory. "As one online investor stated 'without a manufacturing plant there can be no profits.' said Andrew Clark- The Guardian" PPL were given an approval to trial transgenic sheep under the old IAG Act- pre HSNO and now have an approval from ERMA granted in 1999 to breed a flock of 10,000 sheep with human genes.

In a media release this March, Agresearch posted a 41.5% profit rise boosted by a 71% increase in non-governmental commercial revenue and the acquisition of Sastek, a joint venture world leader in the supply of product traceability solutions and identification systems for the perishable food industry with allied companies in South Africa, Australia and the UK.

At present a joint proposal to Codex AlimentariusCommission (World Food Standards meeting in Ottawa until 4th May) by Australia and South Africa poses a threat against the only means consumers worldwide have of identifying non GE food by 'negative labelling'(GE/GM Free), and growing concerns about the health risks of meat have identified industrialised farming practices as perpetuating disease spread such as foot and mouth and BSE. The concerns of the human health risks of GE fed animals have been raised before the Royal Commission. The meat industry is considered a stakeholder by the Australian and New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) and having lobbied ANZFA to disallow labelling of meat (or other products produced from animals fed GE feeds) it is in all likelihood now lobbying Codex.

Further info- Susie Lees 03 546 7966 susie@tasman.net

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