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GE Cows Threaten NZ Dairy Industry

4 July 2005

GE Cows Threaten NZ Dairy Industry: Minister Must Use call-in Powers

AgResearch's deal to grow GE Cows for pharmaceuticals will meet with huge public opposition as it is a threat to our Dairy industry's international reputation which could cost the country millions.

The proposal is totally contrary to the findings of the Royal Commission on GM that our dairy herd should not be used like this. There is also a financial cloud over the company involved that could leave New Zealand exposed to huge costs if, like previous ventures, the deal ends in bankruptcy.

The plan to produce GE cows is equally unacceptable in the light of the national debate on the GE issue and how the technology should be used in ways that reflect the nation's values and ethics. The Government must act, even if it has to use Ministerial call-in powers under the HSNO Act to stop it.

If the Government allow the AgResearch deal to go through they will be willingly endangering our marketing reputation and record of scientific excellence that New Zealand has built up over years.

It is especially concerning that the deal involves a Dutch company that bought some of the Intellectual Property rights off now-bankrupt from PPL who ran thousands of GE sheep in the North Island until the company collapsed.

Under existing law PPL's bankruptcy has left the New Zealand public to pay for any clean-up of land contaminated by the PPL sheep. The land remains untested despite concerns that genetic material remains and could negatively impact future use.

The Minister of Crown Insitutes should stop AgResearch from making this deal, and if he cannot, the Minister of the Environment - using call-in powers under the HSNO Act - should it.

The decision to go into partnership with Pharming NV, itself recently in receivership shows that AgResearch and other CRI's have totally sold out to the flawed myth that NZ is desperate for GE products when the opposite is the case.

"When the country's largest CRI has to enter into partnership with a company that is just trading out of receivership something is terribly wrong," says Clare Bleakely from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

AgResearch is also threatening our international marketing image just to try and prove that GE is viable. The cruel and inhumane factory pharming of GE cows to produce a product that can already be naturally isolated from cows milk whey is outrageous and our farmers already a lucrative market selling the natural version.

Pharming NV is reported to have filed for voluntarily receivership in 2001 due to patent violations. After a settlement was made, its C1 inhibitor assets were sold to US biotech company Genzyme, and since then it has been trading out of receivership. In 2004 Pharming NV acquired PPL's patent portfolio rights including key product and technology.

"We are concerned the history of bankruptcy will be repeated and the taxpayer will end up carrying the costs of damage,' says Clare Bleakley.

"PPL was AgResearch's previous partner, but in March 2004 its venture failed leaving New Zealand with 500 acres in the Waikato without any funding for testing or cleaning up of contaminated land".

"It is unacceptable if PPL has done a deal, crying bankruptcy, so it does not have to pay out to shareholders and pay clean up costs for its land" Claire Bleakley President of GE Free (NZ) in food and environment.

The last time an untested GE supplement was put on the market and caused problems 36 people died and 1500 were permanently disabled. It cost the company involved billions of dollars in payouts to victims who had consumed their brand of GE L-tryptophan and developed eosinophylia myalgic syndrome.

"It is an outrage that AgResearch has not done due diligence by looking at safety studies on the Lactoferrin construct and appears to be hoping to escape through a loop hole by putting it on the market as a supplement" she said.

ENDS

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