There are concerns that plans by AgResearch for downsizing and consolidation of their business into two hubs will leave experimental GE animals in limbo, or see them shipped to other locations thereby putting more rural land at risk of contamination.
AgResearch's Ruakura site has been the location of a series of failed transgenic animal experiments on cows and goats. Many animals have died, been aborted, or become deformed as a result of experiments to produce human-like proteins in their milk with the idea of isolating these and using them in pharmaceuticals or nutraceuticals.
With the news that AgResearch is moving and Ruakura is downsizing, there are concerns about what is to happen to the surviving animals, and what action will be taken to clean up the site when the land is vacated.
"We want to know if the GE animals are going to be relocated and if so, to where? Will they be euthanised because they are no longer deemed a business opportunity? The approach to disposal of animals has also been a concern for bio-security with an independent review on soil monitoring at the site finding it to be totally inadequate in the past," said Claire Bleakely, president of GE Free NZ.
"These transgenic animals have suffered severely from the manipulation of their DNA, with a high incidence (95%) of abortions and surviving animals being deformed. It is a sorry reflection of the ethical boundaries big business is willing to transgress. It is needless and driven by avarice because the very same gene products are already readily available on the market today.�
In other projects AgResearch has been guilty of ignoring existing solutions that use mixed forage to improve animal health and reduce methane emissions, instead pushing millions of dollars into researching a magic-bullet solution in the form of GE rye grass. Despite the hype pushed out by AgResearch to justify its funding, this is a white elephant.
"This is driven by a desire for Intellectual Property rather than finding effective and genuine agro-ecological solutions for sustainable farming," said Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-Free NZ.
"The fact is that there already exists traditionally bred non-GE forage plants that have superior qualities to the GE rye and clover being hyped by AgResearch."
The lesson to be learned from decades of monoculture is that farmers cannot rely on only one forage crop, and that it is important to keep a diversity of pasture and legumes that will perform in a range of weather conditions, reducing methane and allowing animals to achieve good weight gain in drought conditions.
This time of downsizing should be an opportunity for AgResearch reflect on what it is doing.
"Who it is conducting research for? If it is for New Zealand farmers it must resource innovation based on a GE-Free platform for animals and pastures,� said Claire Bleakley.
�AgResearch need to understand that GE animals and plants in this land do not fit with the ethical values of Aotearoa, nor our international export positioning for high quality , safe food. New Zealand has a record of good husbandry that must not be threatened by GE Free grass or cruel and unnecessary GE animal experimentation."
Claire Bleakley 06 3089842 / 027 348 6731
Jon Carapiet 021 0507681