Embargoed until 00.01 hrs Wednesday 15th May 2002
Today, GeneWatch UK publishes a 100 page investigation into GM and cloned animals (1). Over half a million GM animals - mainly mice - were involved in experiments in UK laboratories in 2000. Worldwide, cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, monkeys, quail, chickens, rabbits, rats, fish and insects have all been genetically modified or cloned.
GM and cloning techniques are very inefficient and many animals suffer from unintended effects or are discarded as failures. Abortion, premature death and infertility are regular side effects of these genetic technologies. Secrecy surrounds the licensing process for experiments with GM and cloned animals in the UK there is no public information on who is allowed to do what, where and why (2). The extent of animal suffering and the reasons for it are being hidden from public scrutiny and debate.
"Hundreds of thousands of animals are suffering in secret genetic modification experiments in UK labs every year," said Dr Sue Mayer, GeneWatchs Director and co-author of the report. "The whole area must be opened up for public scrutiny and debate."
The main reasons given for genetically modifying and cloning animals are medical research, drug and chemical safety testing, for drug production in milk or eggs, to produce meat and milk more efficiently, and to provide organs for transplantation. The GeneWatch investigation reveals that in agriculture and drug and organ production there are safer and more humane alternatives to the use of GM or cloned animals that can meet human needs.
In medical research, excitement and hype about genetics is leading to a vast increase in the numbers of animals genetically modified to have painful and distressing diseases. Because a disease in GM animals is usually very different from the same disease in humans, much medical research using GM animals may result in findings that are not relevant to human disease at all.
"Scientists are getting carried away with gene hype and animals are suffering as a result. There is simply no justification for the genetic modification and cloning of animals for use in agriculture, as drug factories or for organ production," said Dr Mayer. "The use of GM animals in medical research must undergo a complete review as the science does not support the vast abuse of animals that is taking place."
GeneWatch UK is calling for an end to secrecy surrounding experiments with GM and cloned animals and tighter regulations to prevent their use in agriculture, as pets, for drug production or as organ donors. GeneWatch also believes there must be an independent inquiry into the use of GM and cloned animals in medical research.
"Scientists, industry and the Government must take their responsibilities seriously. The prospect of quick profits is driving much of the research. Genetic modification and cloning have become scientifically fashionable whilst the interests of animals are being disregarded," said Dr Mayer.
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For further information, contact:
Sue Mayer on 01298 871898 (office); 07930 308807 (mobile).
Notes to editors:
- Genetically modified and cloned animals. All in a good cause? by Jay Rutovitz and Sue Mayer. Executive summary available on www.genewatch.org/GManimals/Reports/GManimalsSumm.htm. The report does not consider GM fish and insects.
- The Home Office is responsible for administering the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act and is advised by the Animal Procedures Committee www.apc.gov.uk
- There are no GM or cloned animals used commercially in the UK, although
GM mice are advertised for mail order.