INDEPENDENT NEWS

Govt GM Freeze Denies Access To Vaccines

Published: Wed 8 Aug 2001 04:26 PM
Thousands of New Zealanders travelling to cholera-infected countries are being denied access to safer and more effective GM vaccines because of the Government's ongoing moratorium on genetically modified organisms, National's Environment spokesman Nick Smith said today.
"The Orochol Berna vaccine provides a vastly superior level of protection against cholera. It has a protection level of over 90%, compared to conventional vaccines which offer a protection level of just 30-40% and have nasty side effects.
"It is available in Australia, the United States and Canada and is recommended by the World Health Organisation.
"This GM vaccine was available in 1999 under National, but was withdrawn with the introduction of the Labour Government's moratorium. A specific application was made to the Environment Minister to allow its use, but Marian Hobbs denied that access - despite the Government's own experts on pharmaceutical safety, Medsafe, giving it the all-clear.
"Cholera kills over 120,000 people every year in Asia, Africa, South America and the Pacific. An outbreak in Micronesia last year resulted in 954 cases and nine deaths. The most common country for New Zealanders to contract the disease is Fiji. Approximately 2000 New Zealanders who travel overseas each year are vaccinated for cholera.
"This is a mini bad-blood scandal in that New Zealanders have intentionally been denied access to safer technology. It also exposes the risks posed to New Zealanders' health by further extending the moratorium on gene technology.
"Already 78 GM medicines have been approved in the U.S. and a further 350 are in the pipeline. Every week the Government extends this moratorium, New Zealanders are denied access to modern medicines available in other parts of the world.
The Government is acting irresponsibly in continuing to deny New Zealanders access to this technology when its own Royal Commission has confirmed that the processes for assessing the risks to the environment and the public health are robust," Nick Smith said.
Ends

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