GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 7th November 2003

Restructuring Risks Undermining NZ Export Reputation

Restructuring by AgResearch could undermine the standards of oversight for animal health in New Zealand and threaten our reputation overseas. Ensuring animal health is vital for our export image. Government support for the diagnostic and control research of disease at AgResearch must be the aim for publicly funded research.

In the event of new diseases emerging, a good diagnostic and response unit is essential. Recent incidents of diseases include the 'provisionally confirmed' post-weaning multi-specific wasting syndrome (PMWS) an 'exotic' pig disease and Mycoplasma mycoides in cattle . The latter is apparently a less virile version of other related diseases, some of which are of serious concern worldwide.

With the increased incidence of transgenic GE animals being developed in New Zealand using human and other genes, the spectre of new pathogens emerging cannot be ignored. These experiments make it even more important that New Zealand is protected by a sophisticated and properly funded system to identify diseases. " We are concerned that once again New Zealand is being sold-short. We are told we have the best standards in the world, but ongoing dismantling of them and breaches that ERMA and MAF have failed to prevent risks that reputation," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment. 

In order to maintain public confidence in our exports it is vital to have research that routinely establishes good animal health. Unfortunately, even with the long-running GE sheep trials the standards have not been met. Illness in some of these animals has gone un-investigated and the restructuring of the organisation now going on seems to do nothing except make matters worse.

Crown Research Institute AgResearch, partially publicly funded, is actively involved in GE experimentation with cows, and collaborates with overseas research partners. Their spin-off stand-alone company Celentis, takes research to commercialisation reaping any financial benefits. Reportedly many scientists at AgResearch have been unhappy about the focus on GE, but would no doubt be censored if they were to speak out. 

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