6 Sep 2008

Public views sought on GM proposals

10:47 am on 6 September 2008

AgResearch is urging the public to make submissions on its proposal to extend its research on transgenic animals.

The Crown research institute has applied to the Environmental Risk Management Authority to continue research into cows that have been genetically modified to include human proteins in their milk.

It also wants to expand its investigations to include goats and sheep and a range of other animals, with the aim of producing pharmaceuticals and other products that might have health benefits and commercial applications.

AgResearch has released a document called Fiction & Facts which it says is designed to dispel myths about its GM research that it says have been presented to the media by lobby groups such as GE Free New Zealand, and the Green Party.

The Greens say the document inadvertently confirms downsides to GE research such as deformed foetuses and calves and that the experiments result in less than 9% live births, gangrenous udders and animals suffering from respiratory conditions.

AgResearch General Manager of Applied Biotechnologies, Dr Jimmy Suttie, says that this is simply not true, as the Animal Ethics Committees do not allow the institute to do such things.

He says under the animal ethics rules registered veterinarians monitor animal health.

Dr Suttie says the Greens and GE Free New Zealand tend to put up emotive arguments, and AgResearch has a responsibility to the New Zealand public to put up the facts.

However Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, contends that the AgResearch document still does not deny the party's claims.

She says she has looked at the returns the organisation has to make every year, that show there are a lot of deformities among the animals. She says such information is publicly available and can be found on the AgResearch website.

Ms Fitzsimons says a lot of people get emotional and upset about animal welfare issues, but she says something that is true can still be quite emotional.