INDEPENDENT NEWS

Greens Say NZ Importing Glow-In-The-Dark GE Mice

Published: Mon 20 Sep 1999 09:01 AM
Mice that glow in the dark are to be used for medical experiments in New Zealand, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons revealed today.
The University of Otago has received permission from the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) to import five breeding pairs of mice which glow green under ultra-violet light. A fluorescent gene from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria has been inserted into every cell in the mice, causing them to emit the green light. The trait will be passed on to the majority of their offspring.
ERMA has also allowed the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in Wellington to import and breed three strains of mice which contain a firefly gene. While the whole mouse doesn't glow, the activation of the immune system will cause specific cells to give off light.
The Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in Wellington has received approval to import and breed 61 other strains of genetically altered mice, who have had genes either added or knocked out. Co-leader of the Green Party, Jeanette Fitzsimons, said that there were ethical issues involved in breeding strains with genes knocked to make them susceptible to disease. "There are major animal rights issues here which haven't even been put before the public for discussion." Ms Fitzsimons said that the public had the right to know what was going on behind closed laboratory doors. "We are introducing strains of mice who are susceptible to disease into our country. No-one knows what the eventual outcome of tinkering with their immune systems. While I accept that the research will contribute to our medical knowledge, we need to look at health from a wider perspective."
Ms Fitzsimons questioned what would happen to the domestic mouse population if the transgenic mice did manage to escape.
"ERMA admits that the most likely outcome of escape would be the pollution of the wild mouse gene pool with Green Fluorescent Protein. The possibility of polluting any gene pool is something we have to take extremely seriously.
"After months of sitting on a select committee to consider the new animal welfare bill, I have discovered that animals produced through genetic engineering, like fluorescent mice, are outside the scrutiny of the animal welfare legislation. Because the genetic transfer is done on a cell, not a whole animal, the welfare of the resulting abnormal animal does not trigger the provisions of the act."
ENDS

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