May 2010

Mutant cows die in GM trial

Mutant cows die in GM trial

By Eloise Gibson 4:00 AM Saturday May 1, 2010



Photo / Hawke's Bay TodayGenetically modified cows were born with ovaries that grew so large they caused ruptures and killed the animals.

The bungled experiment happened during a study by AgResearch scientists at Ruakura, Hamilton, to find human fertility treatments through GM cows' milk.

AgResearch is studying tissue from one of three dead calves to try to find out what made the ovaries grow up to the size of tennis balls rather than the usual thumbnail-size.

Details of the deaths - in veterinary reports released to the Weekend Herald under the Official Information Act - have reignited debate over the ethics of GM trials on animals.

AgResearch's applied technologies group manager, Dr Jimmy Suttie, said he did not see the deaths as a "big deal", and they were part of the learning process for scientists.

But GE-Free NZ spokesman Jon Carapiet said details of the calf trial showed the animal welfare committee overseeing AgResearch's work was "miles away from the ethics and values of the community".

The calves died last year, aged six months. They were formed when human genetic code injected into a cow cell was added to an egg from a cow's ovary and put into a cow's uterus.

The scientists hoped that the genetic code, a human follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), would enable the cows that were produced to produce milk containing compounds that could be used as a human fertility treatment.

Farmers Cope With Roundup-Resistant Weeds

Farmers Cope With Roundup-Resistant Weeds

Christopher Berkey for The New York Times

Jason Hamlin, a certified crop adviser and agronomist, looks for weeds resistant to glyphosate in Dyersburg, Tenn. By WILLIAM NEUMAN and ANDREW POLLACK

Published: May 3, 2010

On a recent afternoon here, Mr. Anderson watched as tractors crisscrossed a rolling field — plowing and mixing herbicides into the soil to kill weeds where soybeans will soon be planted.

Just as the heavy use of antibiotics contributed to the rise of drug-resistant supergerms, American farmers’ near-ubiquitous use of the weedkiller Roundup has led to the rapid growth of tenacious new superweeds.

To fight them, Mr. Anderson and farmers throughout the East, Midwest and South are being forced to spray fields with more toxic herbicides, pull weeds by hand and return to more labor-intensive methods like regular plowing.

"We’re back to where we were 20 years ago," said Mr. Anderson, who will plow about one-third of his 3,000 acres of soybean fields this spring, more than he has in years. "We’re trying to find out what works."

Farm experts say that such efforts could lead to higher food prices, lower crop yields, rising farm costs and more pollution of land and water.

"It is the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen," said Andrew Wargo III, the president of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts.