12/12/2007

Fonterra Threatened by Plan for GE Cows

 

Plans by AgResearch to expand it's experimental herd of transgenic cows are a threat to the international reputation of Fonterra and other New Zealand brands trading off our clean and natural image.

AgResearch has previously farmed on 100 acres deemed 'in containment', but news of its latest application for GE cattle expansion into new sites raises the spectre of undermining New Zealand's trading reputation.

Consumers locally and internationally continue to widely reject GE foods and trust New Zealand products to be GE-free.

"It is very poor management of our brand image to be pushing GE cows when one of the major macro-trends in global food marketing is for natural and sustainable production methods," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

"There is a real risk to Fonterra's reputation from an expansion of GE experimental cattle. New Zealand's biotechnology strategy should focus on natural selection and marker assisted breeding that can achieve new products and improvements without genetically engineering the animals.

"This change in strategy is necessary to fit with New Zealand's brand image; our scientists have already successfully used these techniques in developing sheep with natural resistance to facial eczema, and in breeding dairy cows to produce superior milk."

Fonterra should oppose the expansion and distance itself from AgResearch's proposals. Instead they should refocus investment to develop improved organic and other premium natural products that will lift New Zealand products above commodity-status.

If approved, AgResearch's expanded herd of genetically engineered cattle and GE goats will nominally be "in containment" but the expansion points towards what may be in effect "conditional release''.

As well as the risk to New Zealand's trading image overseas, there is also a biosecurity risk. Even though GE animals have been continuously farmed in field development conditions for seven years, there is virtually no peer-reviewed published research on their effects to date and over the long-term. A previous trial of over 3000 GE sheep was terminated with all the animals destroyed and with no scientific research conducted on either the animals or the soil where they had grazed.
ENDS
Jon Carapiet - 0210 507681
Claire Bleakley - (06) 3089842

REFERENCES:

AgResearch application to amend controls under s67A, GMF 98009 part I &II (2007)

ERMA s67A amendment to allow the import of lactoferrin embryos www.ermanz.govt.nz

ERMA GMD 02028 Annual reports 2004-2006 www.ermanz.govt.nz

ERMA GMF 98009 Annual reports 2001 -2006 www.ermanz.govt.nz

Background Note
To date no transgenic drug from milk has been approved for oral ingestion. Most such milk-derived products have failed because of immune system reactions and deterioration in the conditions being treated. The most famous reaction to a genetically engineered drug was during the trial of an arthritis drug that caused severe immune reaction permanently impairing the health of the subjects.

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