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5-Animals: New Zealand's GE cow research goes for private investors

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Private cash for GM
SOURCE: The New Zealand Hereald, by Simon Collins
DATE:   May 21, 2003

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Private cash for GM

State-owned AgResearch plans to bring in private investors to help
finance its controversial work on genetically modified cows. The
institute yesterday received $5.4 million a year from the Foundation for
Research, Science and Technology towards its GM and cloning work for the
next five to seven years - a big increase over its previous funding. But
chief executive Dr Keith Steele said the institute wanted to turn this
into an even bigger programme using a new company with a mix of public
and private funding. The investors would probably include New Zealand and
overseas companies. AgResearch would keep a majority stake "in the short
term". "We have worked out the targets that we are going to work in, the
pharmaceuticals we want to target." An initial goal will be to modify
cows to produce milk containing the human myelin basic protein for use in
treating multiple sclerosis. The institute said in January that it had
genetically modified calves to produce milk with higher levels of two
caseins that helped to solidify cheese and drive off unwanted whey. Dr
Steele was confident the new techniques would yield a commercial return
within the five-year period of new state funding. The venture is subject
to a judicial review brought by Mothers Against Genetic Engineering of
the research's approval, granted last year by the Environmental Risk
Management Authority. That case is due to be heard in the High Court at
Auckland on June 9.

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  GM cattle expansion
SOURCE: The New Zealand Herald, by Simon Collins
DATE:   May 21, 2003

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GM cattle expansion

AgResearch has won more money for work on genetically modified cattle,
even though it is still subject to a High Court challenge. The state-
owned company announced yesterday that it had won $5.4 million a year for
its genetic modification (GM) and cloning work from the Foundation for
Research, Science and Technology. It also said it proposed to close its
Wallaceville research centre in Upper Hutt. Most of the centre's 140
staff would be offered new jobs at Palmerston North or Dunedin. The news
outraged Mothers Against Genetic Engineering (Madge), which filed in
January for a judicial review of the approval the Environmental Risk
Management Authority granted last year for GM work. Madge spokeswoman
Alannah Currie said the Government was throwing away taxpayers' money
because the world did not want to eat GM foods. In the High Court last
month, Justice Ellen France ruled against an AgResearch application to
make Madge pay $30,000 security for costs in advance of the court case. A
three-day hearing of the substantive claim starts on June 9. AgResearch
chief executive Keith Steele said the court case would hold up plans to
bring in outside investors in a new company which will take over the GM
and cloning work. But the Government money would give the work "quite a
boost" in the meantime. The institute has said in the past that it hoped
to genetically modify cows so that they produced milk containing a human
protein that could help treat multiple sclerosis. Dr Steele said that was
still an initial goal, but the new company would aim at "new targets" as
well. He said the decision to close the 98-year-old Wallaceville research
centre was to concentrate research in three "globally competitive"
centres at Ruakura (Hamilton), Palmerston North and Invermay (Dunedin).
All 85 scientists at Wallaceville would keep their jobs if they were
willing to shift. Animal health researchers, about two-thirds of the
total, would go to Palmerston North, and fertility experts, comprising
the other third, would go to Invermay. Some of the 55 technicians and
support staff would also be offered relocation, but some would be made
redundant. "I can't really say how many positions will be cut for those
staff until the proposal is formalised," Dr Steele said. The national
secretary of the Public Service Association, Richard Wagstaff, said staff
were taken by surprise when Dr Steele announced the proposal at
Wallaceville yesterday. "These are very much life-changing sorts of
announcements about where you will live," he said. "They have families,
and there are other considerations." He said the union would encourage
its members to think about the proposal rather than respond quickly. Dr
Steele said a final decision would be made by the end of July.