The new AgResearch application for GM animals threatens the very existence of the organisation and could take New Zealand�s agricultural reputation down with it.
AgResearch have applied to genetically modify farm animals from almost every domesticated species* that exists. The range of animals and GM constructs is so varied that they cannot even provide an exhaustive list of the constructs being proposed, or the benefits.
AgResearch have applied to set up facilities in undisclosed secret locations for an unlimited time in Canterbury, Southland and Taranaki. These animals will be producing proteins in their milk which will be isolated for rare disease medicines and nutraceutical supplements.
�The rare disease medicines will have to be clinically trialled. But it is important to remember that the last GM trial for arthritis was almost fatal because of life-threatening immune reactions in the 6 healthy patients. Three were left as amputees. However, there is a real risk GM nutraceuticals might escape trials due to the way they are classified,� said Claire Bleakley of GE Free (NZ) in Food and Environment. "The result of the application could be devastating."
This latest and much larger application follows up on the work done on GM cows since 2000. But the results of this trial are poor and after 8 years there is still no data on the environmental effects or the effectiveness of the gene in milk. The GM Cows have a less than 9% live birth rate with many calves born with serious deformities. The records show that animals that live for the first two days are registered as 'still births' obscuring the fact they have been euthanased.
�These animals are suffering. There are reports of gangrenous udders, deformed calves and many suffer mastitis and are highly susceptible to respiratory and septic conditions,� Ms Bleakley said.
�How can sick animals produce a healthy product? This is cost cutting taken to the extreme, it is cruelty taken to science fiction levels, and to-date recombinant milk clinical trials have failed. No milk has ever been approved for medicinal use."
New Zealand has already experienced the failure of a large GM-animal project. The disastrous GM sheep trial at Whakamaru, left 500 acres of farm land contaminated and 3000 sheep were incinerated, with remains left in offal pits and as ashes.
The sheep suffered from a range of serious diseases and had a dismal animal husbandry record with a 5% lamb rate. Human subjects in clinical trials had immune system reactions and respiratory distress.
�The land was then sold without any clean up or testing done. We can only wait to see if the large animal barns at the facility were built in order to protect the animals from the possibility of some GM created pathogen that could have been created in the soil,� said Ms Bleakley.
The new AgResearch applications seek to use three types of surrogates to carry the GM embryos: GM, conventional, and recipient animals. Recipient animals will be aborted at around 60 days and the foetus cells harvested to produce new embryos.
�This practice is highly dangerous. It is possible the aborted foetus was already deformed or carrying defective traits or disabilities that could cause long term suffering to the mothers and babies.�
�Genetically modified milks as medicines have already caused serious problems in clinical trials,� said Ms. Bleakley. �New Zealand cannot go down this track with the danger it poses to the environment and people. It is unbelievable that ERMA has allowed it to get this far. The Minister must 'call in' the applications now, to protect the national interest and save AgResearch from itself.�
Claire Bleakley 027 348 6731/ (06) 3089842.
GMF 02028, GMF 98001 AgResearch Annual reports 2000 -2007
* Cows, Pigs, Llama�s, buffalo, goats, sheep, horses, deer, alpaca.