More MS news articles for Jan 2002

Claims of GE research cover-up,1227,77777-1-7,00.html

Published on Jan 23, 2002

A government agency has been accused of trying to keep the public in the dark about its plans to insert human genes into cows.

AgResearch has applied to conduct a fresh experiment on cows, and the Greens fear the project will allow the state-owned agency to take genetic modification too far.

AgResearch wants to insert the cows with human genes to help find a new protein to treat multiple sclerosis.

"Instead of humans making the protein.. we'll be having a cow make the protein," says spokesperson Paul Atkinson.

The cows would live at AgResearch's Ruakura farm.

But rather than ask the Environmental Risk Management Agency (ERMA) to approve field trials, AgResearch wants to apply for a development application to conduct laboratory research.

That usually means no public consultation, and the Greens say it's a cover-up.

"There's absolutely no difference between what they call a development project and the other which they call a field trial... they're the same," says Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons.

AgResearch claims the experiment will be staged indoors - mostly.

"It's only when the calves are born they'll be kept outdoors to give them a reasonable environment to grow," Atkinson says.

ERMA receives about 30 development applications a year and normally, none are publicly notified.

But ERMA says resistance to genetic engineering means a change in stance, and the public having a say.

"Once the decision has been made to publicly notify the application gets treated in a way which is in every way similar to the way had it been a field trial," says ERMA CEO Bas Walker.

That could mean a costly battle for AgResearch.

Last year, ERMA approved a similar experiment at Ruakura, only to have the decision overturned in the high court.

And at least one campaigner, Claire Bleakley, has signalled she is prepared to take AgResearch to court again to stop the experiments.