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News Release

Response to Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission (AEBC) Report into regulation of animals in biotechnology

The genetic modification of animals is a modern form of alchemy, driven by greed, not need. We are concerned that the AEBC report has glossed over fundamental flaws in the genetic modification of animals.

Our bodies are, for practical purposes, infinitely complex. This means that the effects of interfering with the genome of animals are fundamentally unpredictable. That can have horrific consequences for those animals, who suffer deformities, mutations and completely new illnesses because of the disruption to the proper functioning of their bodies.

This complexity also has disastrous consequences for the stability and reliability of the genetically modified animals in terms of the uses which biotechnology wish to put them to. The bottom line is that genetic manipulators simply don't know what they are doing. Unfortunately, biotechnology companies' PR tends to gloss over these harsh realities in order to foster an unwarranted confidence in their activities and products.

We are also concerned that the AEBC report's recommendations are politically naïve, with the suggested regulatory structure being cosmetic and toothless.

"If you modify or knock out a gene, you will never be able to predict the effect with 100% confidence as we do not understand the total functioning of a gene. You will never understand all the effects until you understand the physiology of the whole body."

Professor Grahame Bulfield, Director of the Roslin Institute, speaking at an AEBC public meeting.

Millions of animals have already been subjected to damaging genetic interference in the UK over the last decade at least. This has taken place in secret, with virtually no public debate, and without even an adequate legal framework. The Government has permitted biotech companies to be laws-unto-themselves, seduced by false claims of potential economic benefits. The genetic modification of animals signals an attempt by intensive agriculture and "bio-pharming" to try to squeeze even more profits out of animals.

This disastrous misjudgement in Government policy has meant that short-term commercial interests have dominated the interests of people, animals and the environment.

The recommendation to establish a new advisory committee is, frankly, feeble. This Government has rejected, ignored or dragged its feet on a whole host of important recommendations made by the advisory Animals Procedures Committee. Every time an attempt is made to assert democratic control over the actions of those who exploit animals, the Government rebuffs it. What is needed is a complete overhaul of the Government policy to ensure:

  • that serious ethical issues are discussed before the damage is done, and
  • that Government policy reflects society's concerns rather than being dictated by commercial interests

It is the Government's and industry's contempt for democratic processes which has underpinned the justified trepidation over GM foods and, with GM animals, it's business as usual.

Examples of harmful unforeseen consequences of genetic modification

  • Pigs produced with human growth hormone gene (the "Beltsville Experiment"): severe arthritis; crippled; lethargy; ulcers; heart problems; blindness; impotence.
  • Gene deletion experiments ("knock-out" GM animals): frequent multiple pathologies; deformed genitals; missing limbs; extra limbs; involuntary movements; gross deformities of the head and brain; blindness.
  • Cloned animals: high rates of miscarriage and infant mortality; "large-offspring syndrome"; lethal heart defects; fatal lymph system abnormalities; high cancer rates; premature ageing.

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Uncaged 1993-2012: This is the archived website of Uncaged. All information correct at the time of archiving - November 2012.