04/02/2007

ERMA Officials Warned Against Misleading Claims and Hype

 

New Zealand officials are being warned to scrutinise misleading claims used to promote biotech products in order to get organisations such as ERMA to approve them.

Over recent months concerns have been raised because of examples of hype around “scientific breakthroughs” with GE plants and animals and misleading claims of benefits to farmers, consumers, the environment and profitability.

A website run by Canadian Agbios crop reported that they had genetically engineered Holstein bull calves and that “new laboratory tests on the 20-month old genetically engineered cattle have shown them to be immune to BSE disease.”
Two weeks later the same site revealed that “reports that the first cow genetically engineered to be immune to BSE will soon be born have turned out to be misleading”. In fact only cell lines had been created and it would take decades and massive expenditure to replace existing herds. Moreover the whole project may be a pipe-dream given tests on mice show they suffered adverse effects when the BSE (PrP gene) was deleted.

New Zealand media also recently re-published stories from the UK on using animals as “bio-rectors” to reduce manufacturing costs of drugs, without mentioning the serious ethical issues which prompted the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification recommending against such exploitation when alternatives exist.

In the past ERMA has approved GE trials in New Zealand on the basis of scientists wanting to gain new information. But after 12 years there is little published information on the animals, environment and health-effects of these trials, serious adverse effects in clinical trials, or commercial failures.

This situation has raised concern about the information ERMA is currently considering in relation to an application for GE brassica trials by Crop and Food Research.

“GE Free New Zealand hopes that ERMA will rely on evidence that is provided from published peer reviewed journals,” says Jon Carapiet. “We hope that misleading reports and hype do not influence their decisions, or their process will be compromised.”

ERMA’s decisions can be challenged if they are flawed, but it requires expensive High Court action. It is vital that information provided at the time of the decision-making is complete, accurate, and scientifically robust to avoid officials buying into claimed benefits that simply do not exist.
ENDS
Jon Carapiet 0210507681

References:
Genetically Engineered Cattle May Cut Down On Mad Cow Disease Cases
Nidhi Sharma, All Headline News, Tuesday, January 02, 2007 http://www.agbios.com/static/news/NEWSID_8097.php

No BSE-free cow, New Scientist, Thursday, January 25, 2007
http://www.agbios.com/static/news/NEWSID_8150.php



http://www.agbios.com/static/news/NEWSID_8150.php

No BSE-free cow
Publication: New Scientist
Date: Thursday, January 25, 2007
Reports that the first cow genetically engineered to be immune to BSE will soon be born have turned out to be misleading.

In theory, creating BSE-free animals is simple: delete both copies of the gene for the PrP protein that causes prion diseases when it becomes mishapen, and animals cannot develop the disease. But in practice, engineering such animals is time-consuming and very costly, and past attempts to create cows that lack the gene have failed (New Scientist, 5 January 2002, p 5).

So when Kirin Brewery of Japan this week announced that a cow was pregnant with a calf that lacks the PrP protein, the story received global press coverage. But the actual work is being carried out by Kirin's partner, Hematech of Connecticut, and James Robl, the company's chief scientific officer, told New Scientist that so far the US company has only created cell lines lacking the prion gene.

The aim of the work is to use BSE-free cows to produce pharmaceutical products such as human antibodies. This would guarantee there would be no risk of people getting vCJD, the human form of BSE. But BSE-free cows are unlikely to end up on the dinner plate - it would take decades and be very expensive to replace existing herds of beef cattle.

It remains to be seen whether BSE-free cows will be healthy. Some mice in which the PrP gene has been deleted seem to have altered sleeping patterns, which may indicate other problems too.
http://www.agbios.com/static/news/NEWSID_8097.php Genetically Engineered Cattle May Cut Down On Mad Cow Disease Cases
Author:Nidhi Sharma
Publication: All Headline News
Date: Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Houston, TX -- Researchers across the United States have reportedly found a way to tackle the Mad Cow disease by genetically engineered cattle. These cattle have immunity against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or Mad Cow disease, thus helping eliminate the disease if consumers are ready to accept genetically engineered cattle.

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) commonly known as mad cow disease, is a fatal, neurodegenerative disease of cattle. It also adversely affected the country's agriculture industry as many countries banned the imports of cattle from U.S. due to this disease.

However, new laboratory tests on the 20-month old genetically engineered cattle have shown them to be immune to the disease. The mechanism works by blocking the proteins that cause the beef cattle to contract Mad Cow disease.

According to AXcess news, the scientists however have cautioned that more tests are needed to be conducted on the animals for longer periods of time.

People who have consumed the meat of cattle infected with Mad Cow disease contracted a human variant of the disease known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or vCJD.

However, the latest findings suggest that genetically modified cattle however lacked the particular protein, which malfunctions to cause Mad Cow disease, thus creating a resistance to the disease.

The disease has reportedly caused nearly 200 human deaths in the past decade.

According to Edward B. Knipling, administrator of the Agricultural Research Service, "These cattle can help in the exploration and improved understanding of how prions function and cause disease, especially with relation to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE."

Furthermore, a Sioux Falls-based biotechnology firm has reportedly developed cattle that don't appear to be able to contract mad cow disease.

According to the scientists at Hematech, they have developed 12 healthy Holstein bull calves. They don't have the naturally occurring prion proteins that can misfold and cause bovine spongiform encephalopathy, otherwise known as BSE or Mad Cow disease.
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