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Iowa's "pharma crop" could decimate NZ exports

Iowa's "pharma crop" could decimate New Zealand exports.

The announcement that Iowa biotech interests want to use New Zealand to grow pharmaceutical crops is a step in the wrong direction. If ever brought to reality the proposal could decimate New Zealand's reputation as a source of safe food and create irreversible environmental damage.

Pharm crops have already created problems overseas with contamination of food resulting in authorities ordering their destruction; and concerned scientists recommending a moratorium on their growing. Serious lapses in regulation have also allowed GE animals, used to create pharmaceuticals, to enter the food chain.

"The idea of New Zealand becoming a playground for these experiments is absolutely the worst possible outcome from the government's decision to lift the GE moratorium," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

'Pharming' outside of the lab using food crops or farm animals is a disaster in the making for New Zealand.

Pharm crops should be banned to protect human health, the safety of the food supply, the environment and our exports. Unfortunately the government is moving in the opposite direction by promoting a new phase of the New Zealand "experiment".


Contact Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

Iowa leader backs US-NZ 'pharma-crop' tie-in
By SIMON COLLINS science reporter
A man who might be the next Vice-President of the United States would
like to see New Zealand growing genetically modified "pharma-crops" in the
American off-season.

Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, one of a clutch of names being touted as a
possible running mate for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, is
in New Zealand leading a delegation of Iowa biotechnology businesses.

He said farmers in New Zealand, as in the Iowa corn belt, needed new
high-value products to replace low-value agricultural commodities.

"As Brazil and South America and Africa and some of the other parts of
the world get their agricultural act together, our farms are going to be at
a serious disadvantage," he said.

"The only way we in the US and you in New Zealand are going to continue
to have prosperity is to figure out something new to add value to the food
we're producing.

"One way to do that is to have a value-added crop designed for a
particular application, such as growing crops that are designed to convert to
ethanol, or for medicines or nutriceuticals."

Two farmers in Mr Vilsack's 30-strong trade mission, brothers Joe and Bill
Horan of the Iowa Co-operative, are already growing corn which has been
genetically altered to produce an enzyme that helps cystic fibrosis
patients to digest food.

Another company has manipulated corn to produce a protein that is
normally expressed in human tears, and which can deal with the impact of
dehydration and stop diarrhoea.

Mr Vilsack said the Iowa businesses wanted to understand New Zealand's
regulations to see if it would be feasible to grow such crops here.
"You could have a combination of New Zealand and Iowa and get a year-long

He accepted that farmers growing normal corn might be worried about
contamination of their crops from nearby corn that had been engineered
to produce medical proteins. He said one answer would be non-pollinating
or self-pollinating crops.

Another Iowa company, Phytodyne, has developed techniques to "edit" the
genetic structure of plants directly, without leaving traces of markers
or other foreign DNA in the plants afterwards.

Mr Vilsack's mission is visiting New Zealand alone, and not Australia.
The trip was initiated by a Cedar Rapids business owner, Marcia Rogers,
who lived in New Zealand for several years and saw parallels between the
biologically based industries of this country and the US state of just
under three million people.

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