LSN Media Release: August 7, 2002
Bioethics Council scrutiny inappropriate
“GE-Free NZ obviously misunderstands the role of the Bioethics Council. The Council is an advisory body to the Minister
and as such it doesn’t have a role to consider single applications for specific research activity,” the Chairman of the
Life Sciences Network, Dr William Rolleston, said today.
“If this research, which is animal based work in containment, needs to be examined from an ethical standpoint, then this
is surely the role of the Animal Ethics Committee, which was set up for this express purpose.
The Government has acted responsibly in accepting the Royal Commission’s recommendation for a Bioethics Council.
However, the Council’s role was always intended to be advisory, not that of a gatekeeper.
“The application AgResearch is asking approval for, is a ten year study to insert a range of carefully selected genes
from other organisms into cattle to see if therapeutic proteins can be produced in the cows milk
“The modifications being proposed by AgResearch are no different in character than the research modifications which have
already been approved by the Environmental Risk Management Authority to insert a copy of the human MBP gene into calves.
The purpose of this research is to seek a possible treatment for people who have multiple sclerosis.
“Human genes have been used in animals and bacteria for over 20 years – in medical research and in the production of
pharmaceuticals such as insulin, for instance.
“There are potentially huge benefits both to gene technology science and to human health from this type of research.
“There is no intention to release these animals, so they cannot be considered “food” animals. Furthermore, all the
research will be done within a million dollar contained research facility, which has already been approved by ERMA. The
research is also being supported by the local iwi.
“In virtually all respects the research being proposed is identical to the previously approved research. Therefore it
would be a significant disadvantage to introduce further, unnecessary delays,” concluded Dr Rolleston.