GM animals won't enter food chain

  • Marian Hobbs
Environment

Controls imposed on genetic research will ensure that no animals used as bioreactors can end up in the food chain, Environment Minister, Marian Hobbs said today.

Green Party co-leader, Jeanette Fitzsimons, confessed to being confused by the government's response to the Royal Commission's recommendation 7.5 on the use of non-food animals as bioreactors to produce human proteins.

"The intent of this recommendation is to prevent bio-reactor animals from entering the food chain and the Government announced that it accepts the intent of this recommendation," Marian Hobbs said.

"The only genetically modified animals that will be allowed in New Zealand for the next two years will be for research purposes. The conditions placed on such research and the monitoring carried out by ERMA should reassure people that the few GM animals we have in New Zealand will not end up in the food chain.

"Most of this research is for medical purposes. GM animals can produce products such as new proteins for pharmaceutical use. These are known as animal bioreactors, and if they contain copies of human genes they can produce human proteins in their milk. These proteins are extracted and purified for therapeutic purposes.

"The current legislative and regulatory regimes under the HSNO Act, Food Act, and Animal Products Act ensure we eat safe and approved foods. The regime would prevent bioreactor animals from entering the food chain unintentionally."

All research involving animals is covered by the Animal Welfare Act. The Act requires that an animal ethics committee scrutinises each research proposal and asks whether it is necessary to use an animal to carry out the research. All animal ethics committees have 3 members from outside the research organisation: a representative of the RSPCA, an independent vet and a lay-person appointed by local government.