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Insulin-Dependent Diabetes - GM Report Welcomed

31 July 2001


People With Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Welcome Royal Commission’s Report On GM

Diabetes New Zealand welcomes the Royal Commission’s report on genetic modification, and encourages Government decision-makers to remain focused on the benefits this area of science can have on the health of people, under well-controlled conditions.

“We hope that Government decision-makers remain focused on the benefits science has brought to people with insulin-dependent diabetes,” said Ian Middlemiss, President for Diabetes New Zealand.

“Insulin is derived from a genetically engineered product. It has involved years of scientific research, with marvellous results for people with Type 1 diabetes, i.e those who need to take insulin to control their condition.

“(Biosynthetic) human insulin, derived from a genetically modified organism, reflects our own bodies insulin perfectly, and has been hailed as one of the greatest medical breakthroughs of the 20th Century.

“It would be unthinkable to discontinue the use of human insulin. The advances made through genetic engineering have given rise to new analogues that have allowed people with diabetes better control of their blood sugar levels, and as a consequence improved their chances of not developing the complications of diabetes, such as blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks and limb amputations. We have records of people who have lead almost normal lives because they have been on insulin for periods of 20 to 40 years,” said Mr Middlemiss.

Additional to the health benefits for people with diabetes, human insulin can be mass produced at a very low cost, through the natural fermentation of yeast and genetic modification to produce the precursor of insulin.

“There is a very limited range of animal insulin, and users must get an annual statement from a diabetes specialist to access this product. Local manufacturers inform us that animal insulin is being phased out in New Zealand because of its complicated method of manufacture and the high cost of production.

“As stated in the submission to the Royal Commission by Crystal Bridger, President of Diabetes Youth Wellington, a mother and principal caregiver of a young child with diabetes:
“In order to ensure the healthy functioning of society, the modern state must look after the health of its citizens. Some 32,000 New Zealanders who suffer from diabetes are already dependent on a genetically-engineered medicine – insulin.”

(end)

About Diabetes New Zealand
Diabetes New Zealand is an incorporated society established in 1962. It is a non-government, non-profit organisation that advocates for people with diabetes, raises awareness of diabetes, builds local support groups, and encourages research and improved treatment. With 12,000 members in 36 local societies, the organisation represents approximately 115,000 people currently known to have diabetes. Diabetes New Zealand’s website is at www.diabetes.org.nz.


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