GM research approval granted with strict controls

The Environmental Risk Management Authority today announced it has granted Agresearch authority to develop genetically modified goats, sheep and cattle to produce therapeutic proteins in milk.

The GM trials will be conducted at Agresearch’s Ruakura facility only and in “full containment” meaning for example, two-metre high, double fencing of outdoor containment facilities and measures to prevent animal products from entering the food chain.

ERMA noted in granting approval: “The Authority considered the main benefit of this research to be an increase in scientific knowledge and the capacity for innovation in New Zealand”.

The full ERMA decision is available here.

The SMC rounded up reaction form scientists – further comments will be added to the SMC website.

Associate Professor Jon Hickford, President of the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science comments:

“This approval is NOT unexpected.

“AgResearch’s first attempt to get this approval through was denied as they failed to be specific about the benefit of the GM work they proposed and because they were asking for a broad license to manipulate a wide variety of animals and cells in a variety of ways. This was interpreted in court last year to be one step too far.

“This latest application is more focused, with specific outcomes and benefits described. It is not surprising that a high level of containment is required, but that would always have been the case. The approval is allowed by and consistent with the HSNO Act, and while it may surprise some people, the possibility of this kind of approval being granted once certain criteria were met was ALWAYS there.

“I do not doubt that a number of individuals and groups will be severely “put-out” by this approval, but it needs to be stressed that this is fundamentally experimental science being undertaken for the public good in a Crown agency. I am not aware of any “corporate” influence beyond that defined as acceptable and allowed under the CRI Act. I do not expect to wake up and put GM milk on my Weet-Bix in the near future!”