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Promise of life-enhancing drugs false

Promise of life-enhancing drugs echoes the false hope of GM relieving famine.

Claims by AgResearch that their transgenic cow experiments will create life-enhancing drugs ignore the ethical pitfalls of their vision for the future and may be as hollow as claims of GE helping famine relief which are now rejected by major UK-based Aid agencies.

GE Free New Zealand are critical of the promises made to gain public support of a venture that was never subject to review by the BioEthics Council, and directly contradicts the recommendations of the Royal Commission . Despite the hopes, AgResearch's experiments create, there are also new risks to human health as well as future dairy production.

" Their experiments would be quite widely seen as unethical" says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ (in food and environment) " It is also unethical that alternative research and developmental science has not been pursued".

AgResearch development approval purports to have "potential and beneficial possibilities for human health globally " before any such benefit has been proven. The "potential" benefits of GM products are frequently cited but less often realised. Previous claims by biotechnology companies have failed. Investor skepticism about the real value of this overly-hyped sector in the face of these attempts to boost their share value is predictable. AgResearch claim is couched in similar language to that used by the pro GE lobby to promote use of GE crops to 'feed the world'

This has now been rejected by Britain's top aid charities "They have told UK Prime Minister Tony Blair that genetically modified foods will not solve world hunger, but may actually increase poverty and malnutrition,"says Jon Carapiet

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AgResearch apparently believe there is 'a growing global acceptance of GE medical technologies' but formal research and observations in the general community suggests the opposite is true and that the public are growing more concerned about the claims made for unproven pharmaceutical products and for gene therapy and their negative side effects.

GE Free New Zealand are also critical of the use of word 'synthetic' to describe donor genes sourced from humans, mice, cattle, sheep and goats. The word is intentionally deceptive, and at a recent ERMA workshop it was established there was no difference between natural and so called 'synthetic' genes.

New Zealand needs to stop and think strategically about the ethical and scientific issues before going further down this path. Unfortunately the government has not even completed consultation through MORST to help sort out its biotechnology strategy.By proceeding without any clear plan they are jeopardising our huge dairy and meat industries.

" There are no guaranteed outcomes, just promises and a lot of risk that they claim they can manage" says Jon , "Our economy would be harmed by the loss of our significant marketing advantage, as a result of adverse consumer reaction to New Zealand products"

It is unlikely drug production is the sole aim of this venture. Given the support for the experiments by dairy-food giant Fonterra, the intention over time must be to allow genetically engineered animals and their products to enter our food supply. The development of nutriceuticals could soon see Fonterra starting to shift from being a dairy-food company to a pharmaceutical company. New Zealand GE cows would literally be their pharm animals and our clean green image would be lost forever.".

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