AgResearch must stop its GE projects

AgResearch’s decision to stop cloning animals at its genetic engineering (GE) facility due to animal welfare concerns, should also mean an end to its cruel stem cell method of raising GE animals, according to the Soil & Health Association of New Zealand.

“Supporting the call yesterday by the Green Party for a Parliamentary Inquiry into the ethics and animal welfare issues at AgResearch’s facilities,” Soil & Health – Organic NZ spokesperson Steffan Browning asked, “Do AgResearch and government policy and trade boffins think that stem cell derived GE animals will be any more acceptable to consumers in New Zealand or globally?”

“AgResearch’s own acknowledgement that the stem cell cloning replacement method was going to cause similar losses, should be the death knell on the bizarre experiments at AgResearch’s GE facilities.”

“The cloning technology was cruel and had a track record of very few live births, with resultant offspring prone to a variety of disabilities including arthritis, respiratory distress, deformities and ruptured ovaries, and now AgResearch still isn’t guaranteeing any improvement.”

Just a month before AgResearch stopped its 13 years of cloning experimentation, in September 2010, Soil & Health – Organic NZ had called for a stop to the cloning.

Soil & Health also wanted the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) to clarify the position New Zealand had been promoting internationally against labeling food from cloned animals, and for Fonterra to state unequivocally its opposition to cloning and genetic engineering of animals and pasture.

Following leakage of beef and possibly milk from cloned animals getting into the British food chain, the EU Parliament had last year called for new EU legislation to be developed to expressly prohibit foods from cloned animals and their descendents, with a moratorium on their sale in the meantime.
However NZFSA, representing New Zealand at Codex alimentarius meetings where international food standards and labeling rules are set, has been opposing labeling of food from cloned animals.

“In supporting AgResearch’s cruel genetically engineered (GE) animal cloning at Ruakura, and the international sales of the GE technology or its products, NZFSA has been taking a position that is contrary to New Zealanders and consumers world-wide,” said Mr Browning

“AgResearch was involved with the failed PPL Therapeutics’ farming at Whakamaru of thousands of cloned GE ‘Dolly’ type sheep which suffered respiratory and other defects, ahead of the company’s failure and the sheeps’ destruction in 2003. AgResearch continued the same misery at Ruakura with GE cows, and more recently GE goats and GE sheep had been approved by the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA).”

AgResearch’s applied technologies group manager, Dr Jimmy Suttie, was quoted in May as saying he did not see the deaths as a “big deal”, and they were part of the learning process for scientists. In 2007, following a highly contentious USDA report on the safety of food from cloned animals, Dr Suttie said there was nothing to stop cloned animals entering the food chain, but it was not happening because of international consumer preference.

“That same international consumer preference prevails and all of Dr Suttie’s cruel experiments need to stop before New Zealand is recognised as the centre of bizarre GE animal experiments,” said Mr Browning.

“New Zealand has just two GE field trial experimental facilities operating, the one cruel GE animal one and one for risky GE pine trees at Rotorua. Now is the time to say no to all GE experiments in Aotearoa New Zealand’s environment and rebuild our clean green 100% Pure brand.”

Soil & Health has a vision of an Organic 2020 where new technologies do not compromise genuine environmental sustainability but support biological and organic management systems that are animal friendly and do not use synthetic additives.

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