Human Genes to be injected into Goats, Cows, and Sheep

Human Genes to be injected into Goats, Cows, and Sheep

Scientists have been given permission to put human genes into goats, sheep and cows for the next 20 years, to see if the animals will produce human proteins in their milk.

AgResearch won Environmental Risk Management Authority approval to allow scientists to breed and keep genetically-modified animals at the Ruakura research facility, near Hamilton. The work will begin with genetically modified cows, and could be expanded to genetically modified goats within the next year. Simon Terry, of environmental consultancy the Sustainability Council, said he feared Ruakura would become a "GM animal warehouse" because there were no limits on the number of animals.

Jon Carapiet, of GE-free NZ, said the decision was the beginning of a "mega-transformation" of New Zealand agriculture. AgResearch hopes human proteins made by the animals could eventually be used to make "biopharmaceuticals" to treat rare human diseases and boost New Zealand's income in the pharmaceuticals market. Keeping GM goats will be a first for the facility, and people who spoke at the public hearing on the application were eager to warn the company about goats' incredible abilities to escape. Dr Suttie said any human DNA used would almost certainly not be from a traceable person.

It was now possible to build wholly synthetic human genes in a test tube using information bought from overseas databanks, he said. Agresearch has said it will not use Maori DNA because of cultural concerns. Meanwhile, ERMA is considering broader plans by AgResearch to modify livestock to make antigens, biopharmaceuticals, enzymes, hormones and other products after the Court of Appeal overturned a High Court decision blocking the applications ... more