3 September 2002
FEARS OVER GM FARM ANIMALS
"post-Enron, it's difficult to believe that companies can be trusted
even to keep their own books, let alone save the world." - Naomi Klein
transcription of much of the NRC report Animal Biotechnology: Science
Fears over GM farm animals
BBC, Tuesday, 3 September, 2002
A UK Government advisory body is calling for stricter controls on the development of genetically modified (GM) animals.
The Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission (AEBC) recommends a review of animal welfare legislation.
In a report, it says a strategic body should be set up to advise ministers on GM farm animals in particular.
GM and cloned animals in conventional agriculture are some way off.
But the AEBC says there must be public debate now to avoid problems seen with public acceptance of GM crops and food.
Its Chairman, Professor Malcolm Grant, said: "There has to be an informed public debate and adequate regulatory structures in place before the possible arrival of the first genetically modified animals on our farms or ready to be released into the environment."
The report looks at the range of possibilities for GM animals, from sheep producing medicine in their milk to salmon designed to grow two or three times faster than normal fish.
Prof Grant said he was most concerned about the release of GM fish.
The Commission wants to avoid public concern raised by GM crops
He said he could recognise a commercial argument for creating fast-growing GM fish but he feared they might escape into the wild and damage natural eco-systems.
"Once into the wild, it's beyond the reach of recovery from any national government," he told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme.
Dr Harry Griffin, of the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, which cloned Dolly the Sheep, is also concerned about GM fish escaping.
He said: "There are certainly environmental consequences of faster-growing salmon escaping into the wild and until we are sure of what those consequences are, then I think it's quite reasonable there should be a ban."
The AEBC advises ministers on biotechnology issues affecting agriculture and the environment.
It was set up in July 2000 and reported on the UK's field trials of GM crops last September.
Other recommendations in the report, Animals and Biotechnology, include:
The use of new methods and funding to engage the public in decisions about genetic biotechnology.
Updating legislation to include GM clones and conventional animals in the same regulations where possible.
Updating the 1911 Protection of Animals Act.
Monitoring of GM and cloned farm animals after they have been commercialised.
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