GM and cloned animal controversy
2.GM could harm dairy exports
3.Food Companies Pledge Not to Use Clones
4.MEPs call for ban on animal cloning for food
EXTRACTS: Other companies, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Tyson Foods Inc., have also banned the use of cloned animals in food products. Many haven't made a similar pledge to avoid using food from the conventionally bred offspring of clones, however, partly because no one is tracking the offspring. (item 3)
[Agresearch] admits a less than 9 percent live birth rate, aborted deformed foetuses, deformed calves, gangrenous udders and 'animals suffering from respiratory conditions', but denies there are animal welfare concerns. (item 1)
"Only eight percent of sheep involved in a cloning process result in a viable offspring or embryo. For cows this is 15-20 percent, goats less than three percent, pigs three to five percent, rabbits less than two percent." (item 4)
1.Deformed calves don't enhance NZ image, AgResearch
Press Release: Green Party (New Zealand), 4 September 2008
A long press statement by AgResearch today in which it tries to justify its application to genetically engineer a wide range of animals, plus human and monkey cells, inadvertently shows sad downsides to GE research such as deformed foetuses and calves.
"In its statement today, the Crown research institute makes some outrageous claims as 'facts' in the 35 questions it asks and answers for itself headed 'Fact or Fiction'," Greens Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.
"For example it admits a less than 9 percent live birth rate, aborted deformed foetuses, deformed calves, gangrenous udders and 'animals suffering from respiratory conditions', but denies there are animal welfare concerns.
"It says genetic engineering 'can enhance New Zealand's clean, green image'. This is despite a consumer movement worldwide over the past 10 years against GE food and the fact our GE-free agricultural industry could be a major marketing advantage in the same way as nuclear-free is.
"It tries to refute that the application side-steps the Government's policy of dealing with GE applications on a case by case basis, but then says it 'allows us flexibility to do this'."
Ms Fitzsimons called on AgResearch to stop trying to cover its application with spin and come clean on which parts of New Zealand are likely to be used in outside experiments as new GE testing grounds.
"This application in four parts lists numerous animal and human cells and other animal body parts to be host organisms for engineering. It could allow AgResearch to develop unlimited numbers of GE animals without telling us which specific genes and associated genetic material they intend to use, and without going back to the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) for further approval," she says.
Whole animals the Crown research institute wants to genetically engineer for "outside containment" are llamas, alpacas, sheep, cows, pigs, goats, buffalo, deer and horses.
"AgResearch says it has 'developed a world leading capability in transgenic livestock research' and talks about creating 'sustainable wealth' but the fact is it wants to turn New Zealand into a giant GE laboratory to boost its own corporate plans at the expense of our long-term image, and without taking into account the huge risk of something going wrong," Ms Fitzsimons says.
Public submissions on the application are being made via the website www.ermanz.govt.nz and close on October 31.
2.GE could harm dairy exports
NZ Press Association (NZPA), August 31 2008
A lobby critical of genetically engineered organisms being used in foods and the environment says production of GE pharmaceuticals and functional foods in milk could threaten dairy exports.
GE Free NZ said today that plans by the biggest state science company, Agresearch, to produce GE milk and other high-value proteins in farming areas such as Waikato, Taranaki, Canterbury and Southland posed a commercial risk for dairy exporter Fonterra.
"This is a decision that goes to the heart of New Zealand's values and international positioning," said GE-Free spokesman, Jon Carapiet.
"It will change the very nature of this country, not just in the short-term but forever."
Biopharming - production of pharmaceutical compounds in plant and livestock tissue - has been talked up as the next major development in both farming and pharmaceutical production.
Agresearch is looking at using buffalo, sheep, pigs, alpacas, goats, horses and cows as "production platforms" and has made four applications for the laboratory testing of human and monkey cell lines and smaller species of GE laboratory animals to develop the production herds.
Agresearch has previously created experimental transgenic cattle lines - including one containing a copy of a human gene. It is now seeking approval to exploit its expertise and the nation's low burden of animal illnesses such as madcow disease and develop commercial applications of transgenic livestock.
The GE animals could be used to produce antigens, biopharmaceuticals, enzymes, hormones and other products with possible health benefits and commercial applications.
Fonterra has carried out its own GE research, particularly in relation ot potential pasture plants, but has said it does not want GE products until they are accepted by its customers. It has not taken up an experimental GE cow bred by Agresearch to produce milk with more casein for cheese-making.
Carapiet said it would make economic sense for Fonterra to oppose the applications as a threat to the cooperative's standing as a food exporter.
A preliminary economic evaluation of biopharming in New Zealand by Lincoln University showed GE organisms in the dairy sector had a theoretical potential to cause a minimum of $539 million in losses to the dairy and tourism industries, said Carapiet.
Agresearch's plans represented a transformation of the agricultural sector that Fonterra should not embrace, he said.
The Lincoln report signalled that exporters such as Fonterra and "Brand New Zealand" could be stigmatised if some future GE food turned out to hurt consumers.
Carpiet said there was an alarming lack of lack of basic information, and definitive information on the economics of biopharming was scant: "Biopharming is still in a research stage."
The report said that biopharming could contribute to economic growth, but might also risk negative reactions if a specific technolgoy was not accepted by consumers.
It considered two potential products: recombinant human lactoferrin (rhLF) produced in cow's milk and potatoes engineer to rate low on a glycemic index (GI) , which measures the speed at which food sugars enter the bloodstream, and important aspect for diabetics.
There was a lack of some necessary business information for analysis of recombinant human lactoferrin (rhLF) produced in cow's milk, but it would be difficult to earn more than a normal profit because there seemed to be several close substitutes and competing technologies.
Worldwide sales of lactoferrin were measured in terms of tens of millions of dollars, so a GE version seemed unlikely in the medium term to offset the risk of hundreds of millions of dollars in lost exports.
"By contrast, the low-GI potato could have clear consumer appeal," the report said. A "functional food" would have lower regulatory hurdles than a biopharmaceutical, and potatoes are a commonly consumed food in a multi-billion dollar market.
The genetically engineered status of the product could create problems in some markets, and there was a risk of losing at least $NZ191 million in annual tourism earnings. The food, agricultural and tourism sectors in New Zealand contribute around 27 percent of gross domestic product, with a heavy focus on exports.
3.Food Companies Pledge Not to Use Clones
By JANE ZHANG and JULIE JARGON
Wall Street Journal, September 4 2008
Twenty food companies have told a consumer group that they won't use milk or meat from cloned livestock.
The companies, including Smithfield Foods Inc. and Kraft Foods Inc., were responding to a survey conducted by the Center for Food Safety, a consumer group that opposes animal cloning.
[image caption: Ben & Jerry's is pushing to create a national registry for clones.]
Polls have shown most consumers are uncomfortable with the idea of eating products from cloned livestock, whether for health, ethical or environmental reasons. At the same time, products from the offspring of cloned animals are trickling into the food supply. Currently, the best way for consumers to avoid such foods is to eat organic food.
Basil Maglaris, a spokesman for Kraft, the U.S.'s largest food company by revenue and a major cheese producer, said the company has told suppliers it will accept only ingredients from conventional animals. "The surveys we've seen indicate that consumers aren't receptive to ingredients from cloned animals," he said. The pledge now only applies to cloned animals; the company says it will continue to monitor consumer acceptance of products from clones' offspring.
Other companies, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Tyson Foods Inc., have also banned the use of cloned animals in food products. Many haven't made a similar pledge to avoid using food from the conventionally bred offspring of clones, however, partly because no one is tracking the offspring.
A few have made such a pledge. The center said eight companies it surveyed said they wouldn't knowingly use food from the offspring of clones. These include Seattle-area organic retail cooperative PCC Natural Markets and Unilever's Vermont-based ice-cream maker Ben & Jerry's, which is pushing the government to create a national registry for clones and their offspring.
Andy Barker, social-mission coordinator at Ben & Jerry's, said the company isn't planning to advertise its clone-free status on its ice-cream cartons. It uses groups like the Center for Food Safety to publicize its status.
The International Dairy Foods Association, a trade group for dairy suppliers and manufacturers, said it isn't ready to embrace products made from cloned animals or their offspring. "Our concern is what impact it would have on the market," said spokeswoman Peggy Armstrong. "We don't want to see people not buy milk."
After the Food and Drug Administration ruled in January that products from cloned cattle, swine, goats and their offspring "are as safe to eat as the food we eat every day," U.S. regulators quietly withdrew their request for the food industry to voluntarily refrain from selling milk and meat from offspring of clones. A similar request for products made from the cloned animals themselves remains in place.
Clones -- at about $20,000 a copy -- are too expensive to be slaughtered for food themselves, but some ranchers said they have sold clones' offspring for food.
The Center for Food Safety began surveying the industry after the FDA denied its petition in January asking for mandatory labeling of clones and their offspring, as well as the regulation of animal cloning as a "new animal drug," which would require pre-market approval for safety before cloning can be used on animals. The FDA said the requests didn't meet the requirements for such actions.
The FDA "has denied the desire and will of the consumers and just about all food processors," said Joseph Mendelson, the center's legal director.
4.MEPs call for ban on animal cloning for food
EU Observer, 4 September 2008
MEPs have called for a European ban on the cloning of animals for food in a resolution passed on Wednesday (3 September) by 622 votes to 32, with 25 abstentions. The members also pushed for an embargo on the import of cloned animals, along with offspring and any cloned food products.
Concerns focused on the high mortality rates of cloned animals.
"Cloning is an incredibly wasteful way of producing food, requiring the loss of many animal lives just to produce one successful clone," Green MEP Caroline Lucas told EUobserver. "It has been shown that the animals who do survive suffer more defects and die much earlier than non-cloned animals.
"Only eight percent of sheep involved in a cloning process result in a viable offspring or embryo. For cows this is 15-20 percent," she added, "goats less than three percent, pigs three to five percent, rabbits less than two percent."
Protagonists on both sides of the debate acknowledge that cloned animals are faced with a wide range of health problems, with a high death rate and a high incidence of disease.
Clones commonly suffer from premature ageing, enlarged tongues, squashed faces, intestinal blockages, immune deficiencies, diabetes, heart, lung and liver damage, kidney failure and brain abnormalities.
Surrogate mothers are also burdened with significant suffering and a high death rate, in particular as a result of "large-offspring syndrome."
"From an animal welfare perspective, it's clear that this process causes serious suffering, and may already be illegal," continued Ms Lucas. "European law actually states that 'breeding procedures that cause or are likely to cause suffering or injury to any of the animals concerned must not be practiced'."
The parliamentarians were also afraid that cloning would reduce the genetic diversity of livestock, with the Center for Food Safety (CFS) - an American NGO - saying the patenting of cloned offspring raises concerns that corporations such as Monsanto will control entire breeds.
With the production of identical animals, the CFS argues, the lack of genetic variability means that disease could affect all animals in a herd simultaneously, wiping them out entirely.
Science and religion
The near unanimity of the European Parliament on the issue reflects the scientific concerns of Green and left-of-centre MEPs and the moral and religious issues that see conservatives argue the cloning of animals is "playing God."
The UK conservative MEP and parliament agriculture committee chairman, Neil Parish, emphasised health and safety worries, however. "The problems with cloning concern not only the welfare of animals but also consumer confidence in food that may come from cloned animals," he said.
The chamber also requested that the European Commission develop proposals prohibiting cloned animals and the food they produce. During a debate on Tuesday evening ahead of Wednesday's vote, MEPs questioned the European Commission on its position and its plans regarding animal cloning.
In answering the MEPs' questions, Androula Vassiliou, the commissioner for health and food safety, seemed open to their views.
"There are no convincing arguments to justify the production of food from clones and their offspring," said the commissioner.
"According to global trade rules, imports of food products from third countries can be suspended if they present a serious threat to animal or public health. On the basis of the studies conducted and the opinion of EFSA, the commission will consider whether restrictions must be imposed," she added.
In January, the European Food and Safety Agency (EFSA) declared cloned food to be safe to eat or drink. Then, the following Tuesday (15 January), the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its own opinion, also declaring cloned food safe for consumption.
But two days later the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technology (EGE), the commission's advisory group charged with consideration of ethics in science and technology, issued another report, which had "doubts as to whether cloning animals for food supply is ethically justified."
Currently no products derived from cloned animals are sold in Europe or the rest of the world [GMW - This isn't true as another Wall Street Journal piece this week made clear. The US food supply is already affected]. Experts believe such products could reach the market by 2010.