Cows die in GM experiment
2.Cows die in GM experiment
Video of news interview with ex-GM scientist on deaths of GM cows http://bit.ly/aJA6BI
1.Mutant cows die in GM trial
New Zealand Herald, May 1 2010
Genetically modified cows were born with ovaries that grew so large they caused ruptures and killed the animals.
The bungled experiment happened during a study by AgResearch scientists at Ruakura, Hamilton, to find human fertility treatments through GM cows' milk.
AgResearch is studying tissue from one of three dead calves to try to find out what made the ovaries grow up to the size of tennis balls rather than the usual thumbnail-size.
Details of the deaths - in veterinary reports released to the Weekend Herald under the Official Information Act - have reignited debate over the ethics of GM trials on animals.
AgResearch's applied technologies group manager, Dr Jimmy Suttie, said he did not see the deaths as a "big deal", and they were part of the learning process for scientists.
But GE-Free NZ spokesman Jon Carapiet said details of the calf trial showed the animal welfare committee overseeing AgResearch's work was "miles away from the ethics and values of the community".
The calves died last year, aged six months. They were formed when human genetic code injected into a cow cell was added to an egg from a cow's ovary and put into a cow's uterus.
The scientists hoped that the genetic code, a human follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), would enable the cows that were produced to produce milk containing compounds that could be used as a human fertility treatment.
Under permits issued by the Environmental Risk Management Authority last month, AgResearch can put human genes into goats, sheep and cows for 20 years to see if the animals produce human proteins in their milk.
The proteins could eventually be used to treat human disorders.
Anti-GM groups said the cost to animal welfare was too high, citing cases of aborted and deformed fetuses, deformed calves and respiratory conditions among animals bred at Ruakura.
The Official Information Act documents show a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) investigation found deformities and respiratory problems among animals at the facility - something AgResearch had been open about - but said that was a foreseeable by-product of the project.
Overall, the investigator found cows were better cared for by vets at Ruakura than they would be on a standard dairy farm.
Scientists noticed that four calves carrying the FSH gene grew more quickly than their clone sister, which did not have the gene.
The FSH calves had bigger abdomens and thicker necks but seemed otherwise healthy, apart from one that easily grew short of breath, said a vet's report.
Dr Suttie said the abnormalities were reported to the animal ethics committee, which told the company to monitor the calves.
Tests five months later found three of the four calves had abnormally large ovaries.
When the calves were six months old, one died suddenly of a haemorrhage to her uterine artery, probably because of stretching and distortion caused by her deformed ovaries.
Five days later, a second calf died, after her ovary became twisted and separated from her uterus.
The third calf with over-sized ovaries was killed the same day so scientists could study her tissue.
Dr Suttie said the root of the trouble was that the human FSH genes had affected the whole calf and not the mammary glands only, as was intended - a problem that did not show up in trials on mice.
"This was not intended to happen. But, bluntly, this is what research is all about."
Emails between AgResearch and MAF reveal Agriculture Minister David Carter sought more information about animal welfare when he learned of the calves deaths last year.
He said yesterday that he was satisfied with AgResearch's response.
2.Cows die in GM experiment
NZTV, Source: ONE News
WATCH the video (1:59)
Three genetically modified cows are dead after being born with with ovaries that grew so large they caused ruptures and killed them.
The animals were being used in a study by the AgResearch centre at Ruakura, Hamilton. AgResearch scientists are seeking human fertility treatments through GM cows' milk.
"(An animal) was found dead in a paddock. It showed no previous exterior symptoms or anything like that, and a few days later a second animal died," says Dr Jimmy Suttie, AgResearch's applied technologies group manager.
A third animal was put down for scientists to study. They are studying its tissue to try to find out what made the ovaries grow to the size of tennis balls rather than the usual thumbnail-size, the Weekend Herald reported today.
The newspaper obtained details of the deaths in an Official Information Act request and says it has reignited debate over the ethics of GM trials on animals.
Suttie says the deaths are not a big deal and told the newspaper they are part of the learning process for scientists.
He says all the right procedures were followed after the deaths - the animal ethics committee was notified and MAF.
But he says it is impossible to say if the animals were in pain.
"The Ethics Committee and the vets have the power to stop any experiment if they see any sign of distress, and at no time did they ask us to do that," he says.
AgResearch has permits to put human genes into goats, sheep and cows for the next 20 years to see if the animals can produce human proteins in their milk, which could be used to treat human disorders in the future.
But the deaths will reignite debate around genetic modification.
GE-Free NZ spokesman Jon Carapiet says details of the calf trial show the animal welfare committee overseeing AgResearch's work is "miles away from the ethics and values of the community".
"The latest story is quite horrifying for most New Zealanders. I guess the question is - when you have very powerful and extreme science practices, we have got to have some ethics. We've got to have some values," he says.
The animals died last year, aged six months.
They were formed when human genetic code injected into a cow cell was added to an egg from a cow's ovary and put into a cow's uterus.
It was part of an experiment to see if the genetic code would enable the cows that were produced to produce milk containing compounds that could be used as a human fertility treatment.
The one cow left is producing human protein as it was meant to and it is being intensively monitored by the research company.