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5-Animals: New Zealand groups struggle on pharma GE cows



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                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Lobby group acts against GE research using cows
SOURCE: New Zealand Press Agency
        http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,2193405a7144,00.html
DATE:   Jan 15, 2003

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Lobby group acts against GE research using cows

A lobby group said it would issue proceedings in the High Court at
Auckland today, seeking to cancel the recent decision by Environmental
Risk Management Authority (Erma), allowing Agresearch to insert human and
other animal genes into cows.

Mothers Against Genetic Engineering (Madge) said the "experiment" had the
potential to significantly damage the environment, the economy and
society, by releasing harmful organisms into the environment.

The group said the work would adversely affect New Zealand's clean and
green image in overseas markets.

"Consumers throughout Europe and Asia have overwhelmingly rejected GE
produce and New Zealand, as an agriculturally based economy, cannot
afford to jeopardise these markets," Madge said in a statement.

The group supported the precautionary principle that did not allow the
release of genetically engineered organisms into the food chain and the
environment. Madge spokeswoman Kate Woodd (correct) said: "As mothers we
have a duty to protect our families and our environment and to ensure
that it is sustainable for future generations.

"We are deeply concerned about the risk of creating new diseases that
this experiment carries with it."

Madge said Agresearch sought and got approval to create new organisms
without specifying to Erma the genetic construct of those organisms.

"With Erma's approval Agresearch can release the genetically engineered
cattle into the environment," Ms Woodd said.

"Although contained by a fence, Madge believes this constitutes a field
trial, which is currently prohibited by the moratorium."

Former pop singer Alannah Currie is president of Madge.

Agresearch plans to develop cows which produce milk containing an array
of therapeutic proteins, potentially of use in medical treatments which
may counter a range of genetic and rare disorders.

The Green Party supported the application for a judicial review of the
decision, its agriculture spokesman Ian Ewen-Street said today.

He said today it was excellent to see Madge had issued proceedings in the
High Court at Auckland.

It was shocking the application had been approved without full disclosure
of the types of genes to be inserted and the proteins they would make.

"The full risks are simply not known. The experiment should never have
been approved," he said in a statement.

"Most New Zealanders are opposed to genetically engineering cattle to
produce pharmaceuticals, especially if human genes are used."


                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Researcher says judicial review could abort GE research
SOURCE: New Zealand Press Agency
        http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,2193859a7144,00.html
DATE:   Jan 16, 2003

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Researcher says judicial review could abort GE research

Researchers at Crown science company Agresearch said that the latest
legal challenge to their efforts to put human genetic codes into cows
could result in the research being abandoned or taken overseas yesterday.

"One option would simply be for us to say we'll just terminate the work,"
Agresearch chief executive Keith Steele said.

If the legal challenge went against the company, the only other option
would be to continue the work offshore.

"Those are options which obviously we would need to work through, and
consider very seriously," he said.

Agresearch was not entirely surprised by the legal action.

An earlier controversial effort by Agresearch to produce a human myelin
basic protein in transgenic cattle took 18 months for Environmental Risk
Management Authority (Erma) to give a decision and another year in the
courts, costing the company $350,000, and causing Dr Steele to criticise
the regulatory framework as a barrier to investment.

When Agresearch decided to have another go at producing human proteins in
cows milk, it framed the new application very generally.

Erma approval was gained to "develop transgenic cattle that can express
functional therapeutic foreign proteins in their milk, and to develop
transgenic cattle to study gene function and genetic performance".

This "project basis" approval last September 30 meant that it did not
have to seek permission for each single organism the gene-shuffling created.

In October it started putting copies of cattle, sheep, goat, deer, mice,
and human genes into cattle, with the aim of developing genetically
engineered (GE) cows producing milk containing human and other non-bovine
proteins.

But Mothers Against Genetic Engineering (Madge) said today they were
seeking a judicial review in the High Court at Auckland of Erma's
"development" approval.

The experiment had the potential to significantly damage the environment,
the economy and society, by releasing harmful organisms into the
environment, the lobby group said.

The work would adversely affect New Zealand's clean and green image in
overseas markets.

"Consumers throughout Europe and Asia have overwhelmingly rejected GE
produce and New Zealand, as an agriculturally based economy, cannot
afford to jeopardise these markets."

In addition to developing human therapeutic proteins in the milk of
transgenic cows, the project will also study gene function and genetic
performance in GE cattle.

Dr Steele said the development of the GE cattle would span the first
three to four years of the seven-and-a-half year approval period.

GE cattle would be produced this year and if applicable, the analysis of
inheritance, phenotype and protein expression in milk would be done in
the second, third and fourth years.

He said there was potential for the proteins developed to lead to new
pharmaceutical products for humans.

Agresearch believed that further genetic diseases could be treated by
introducing missing proteins in enzyme-replacement therapy, in much the
same way as blood product infusions help haemophiliacs. It was more than
likely that GE cows could eventually provide human enzymes in large
amounts and in short-supply around the world.

Erma chief executive Bas Walker said he believed Erma's decision to
approve the research was "robust", but "whatever the outcome, it will
assist in strengthening the interpretive material relating to the
(Hazardous Substances and New Organisms) Act".

Dr Walker has previously said Erma would require Agresearch to notify
exactly what gene sequences it was inserting before it creates each new
variation of GE cows.

Erma would check on the implications of each notified "new organism"
created and each would have to fit within the organism description
decided in the initial approval.


                                  PART III
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Mothers lash out at GE critics
SOURCE: New Zealand Press Agency
        http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,2196641a7144,00.html
DATE:   Jan 17, 2003

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Mothers lash out at GE critics

Canterbury mothers of children with cystic fibrosis have hit back at
other mothers attempting to block genetic engineering (GE) research that
could lead to a cure for the disease.

The secretary of the Canterbury branch of the Cystic Fibrosis
Association, Nicky Churton, has written an open letter appealing to the
Auckland-based group Mothers Against Genetic Engineering (Madge) to drop
a legal challenge against AgResearch's trans-genic cow research at
Ruakura on the outskirts of Hamilton.

Mrs Churton wrote: "We are mothers of children who through no fault of
their own have a flaw in their genetic makeup.

"Cystic fibrosis is the most common life-threatening genetic disease
affecting New Zealand children.

"We have a duty to protect our children and the research that is being
undertaken by AgResearch holds the promise of some type of cure or relief
for genetic illnesses. We find it abhorrent that your group wishes to
stop vital medical research.

"With the science of genetic engineering we can see on the horizon
potential treatments which may mean the difference between life and death
for those we love.

"We support research that will one day lead to a cure for cystic fibrosis
and other genetic illnesses which will mean our children can reach their
full potential."

Mrs Churton's son Sam, eight, suffers from cystic fibrosis (CF). He
experiences a build-up of mucus in his lungs, leading to recurrent chest
infections. His life expectancy is 32 years but many CF children die
earlier. Last year the youngest victim in Canterbury was seven.

Conventional treatment for CF involves large doses of antibiotics (Sam is
taking two types), pills to help sufferers digest their food and regular
physiotherapy sessions.

In Sam's case this involves lying face down on a table for 20 minutes,
twice a day, while his mother beats his back, treadmill and mini-
trampoline sessions, and breathing exercises to clear infected mucus from
his lungs.

Mrs Churton said genetic engineering research offered the best hope of a
cure for a genetic disease.

Genetic engineering was a cheap way to produce proteins, otherwise
difficult to obtain, that were known to relieve the symptoms of CF and
could eventually cure the disease.

"Sam already has serious lung damage. There are mothers around New
Zealand watching their children die of genetic illnesses," Mrs Churton said.

Madge spokeswoman Kate Woodd said she had empathy for the mothers of
children with CF or multiple sclerosis (MS) but that the risk posed by
the GE field trial at Ruakura was too great for it to proceed.

"There is a growing body of evidence overseas that demonstrates the
harmful effects of genetically modified organisms on our health and
environment. New Zealanders also need to realise that Erma (the
Environmental Risk Management Authority) concluded that this experiment
by AgResearch carries with it a significant risk of creating new diseases.

"We are not opposed to ethical medical research taking place within the
laboratory and we sincerely hope that with the advance of scientific
knowledge and ethical research, a cure or safe treatment for MS and
cystic fibrosis sufferers can be found.

"Sadly, it appears that good science is giving way to commercialisation
of genetically engineered organisms and crops that are harming the
environment."


                                  PART IV
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Bioethics council won't deal with individual cases - Hobbs
SOURCE: New Zealand Press Agency
        http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,2195292a7144,00.html
DATE:   Jan 16, 2003

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Bioethics council won't deal with individual cases - Hobbs

The Bioethics Council would not get involved in individual cases such as
Agresearch's project to put human genetic codes into cows, which is now
facing a legal challenge, Environment Minister Marian Hobbs said today.

Groups opposed to genetic engineering (GE) have complained the council
should have investigated the project before approval was granted last
September by the Environmental Risk Management Authority (Erma).

One of the lobby groups, Mothers Against Genetic Engineering, is seeking
a judicial review of Erma's approval in the High Court at Auckland Ms
Hobbs said the council had a broad approach to GE, while Erma worked on a
case by case basis.

"The council ... won't respond to individual cases," Ms Hobbs said on
National Radio.

"You can't have two statutory bodies arguing and making case decisions
which can be appealed to the courts, you'd get yourself in a terrible mess."

Agresearch chief executive Keith Steele said yesterday the legal
challenge could result in the research being abandoned or taken overseas.

He said Agresearch was not entirely surprised by the challenge.

It framed its latest application in general terms, so it does not have to
seek permission for each single organism the gene-shuffling creates.

Erma chief executive Bas Walker said yesterday he believed the decision
to approve the research was "robust", and it would check on the
implications of each notified "new organism" created.