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Uncontrollable Species Collapse Too High A Price For GE Predator Control

Using Genetic Engineering (GE) technologies such as gene editing for predator control to drive population collapse or extinction, pose unknown dangers and much suffering. [1] Scientists have openly expressed concerns about the ability to control gene trait transfer to other animals leading to devastating indigenous species collapse and loss of biodiversity. [2]

There is evidence to show that the alarming levels of suffering in Genetically Engineered (GE) animal experiments conducted by AgResearch. These are continuing despite years of failure across multiple projects as recorded in AgResearch annual report to the EPA. [3]

AgResearch has developed 8 experimental GE lines of cattle and there have been thousands of GE embryos created and artificially inseminated into surrogate animals. After 21 years, only 16 GE animals live. These GE animals have suffered distressingly high levels of deformities; abortions; been euthanised for humane reasons; or killed as surplus to requirements. [3]

The latest "Climate change" experiment reveals that the transfer of 100’s of embryos engineered to change a dairy cow’s coat colour was a failure and no pregnancies came to term. There is no record of what the surrogate mothers suffered, as happened in other experiments.
[4]

“These frivolous taxpayer funded experiments are malicious and cruel; we already have suitable light coated dairy breeds and use non invasive predator control that have practical biodiversity and climate change advantages.” said Claire Bleakley, GE-Free NZ president.

“There can be no justification for experiments that cause needless animal suffering. Genetically engineered pests would not only suffer but have the potential to create highly invasive species and cause devastating ecological damage.”

A new research paper by Höijer I et al (2021) has detected large unintended mutations, such as chromothripsis and whole chromosome deletions, are occurring across the whole genome of gene-edited animals and plants. These structural changes at “on” and “off” target sites (Off target sites are: random, unintended mutations in areas of the genome that were accidental) are induced by CRISPR-Cas9 and are inherited across generations. [5]

“Proponents of Gene Editing (GE) are wrong to disregard the scientific reality and to oppose oversight regulation,” said Bleakley “GE experiments in plants and animals have found structural changes in “off target” sites that are passed down and appear to increase through generations.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should require AgResearch to analyze the GE animal genome. Unless products of GE are regulated and the use of new genomics tools, ‘omics’, and carefully designed sequencing experiments are adopted to capture large genome abnormalities, any food or organism changed with this technology potentially hides an unknown devastating ecological and human health disaster.

References: 
[1] https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/nz-scientists-exploring-gene-editing-tech-for-possum-eradication/5KI2R5AUZ7ABAVJF74BUSLTZMI/
[2] Esvelt K.M. and Gemmell NJ. (2017). Conservation demands safe gene drive. PLOS Biology, 15 (11): e2003850 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2003850
[3] https://www.gefree.org.nz/assets/pdf/GE-Animals-in-New-Zealand.pdf
[4] https://www.gefree.org.nz/assets/Uploads/ERMA200223-2021-AgResearch-cattle-sheep-and-goats-annual-report.pdf
[5] Höijer I., Emmanouilidou A., Östlund R., van Schendel R., Selma Bozorgpana B et al (2021), CRISPR-Cas9 induces large structural variants at on-target and off-target sites in vivo that segregate across generations https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.10.05.463186v1.full

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