GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 20th January 2004

Ban called on human and animal stem cell experimentation as hybrid cells created.

GE Free New Zealand are calling for a ban on cross species experimentation using human stem cells in animal embryos after news that hybrid cells have been created in overseas experiments.

The HART - Human Assisted Reproductive Technologies - Bill about to go before Parliament early this year will allow the very type of experimentation which has recently resulted in the creation of hybrid pig human cells and set off alarm bells around the world.

Scientists fear that research of this type (see below) will facilitate the emergence of cross species infections of diseases that previously did not transfer to humans because of the species barrier. 

"The breaking down of the species barrier either by this process or by genetic engineering is a major concern of scientists worldwide. It allows for new diseases to develop from existing ones in animals and is therefore a serious public health risk." says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

This new and surprising development has caused a stir amongst scientists and also raises important ethical issues, which have not yet been discussed in society.

In New Zealand the government have recently set up the BioEthics committee, an 'advisory group' with no regulatory power that proposes to consult with
the public over ethical issues in the bio-sciences. The recommendations of the group headed by Sir Paul Reeves will not necessarily become a part of any relevant policy.

"The concern is that this is just government ignoring the issues and hiding behind meaningless consultation so that it can go its own way anyway. This has been the experience with the GE issue," says Mr Carapiet.

The government must review the new information and act accordingly by banning all animal experimentation, with human cells or genes; thus protecting public health and those industries like tourism and agriculture, which could be affected if anything goes wrong.

Contact:  Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

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