19 January 1996

Fischler warns against making super animals

EUROPEAN farm commissioner, Franz Fischler, has warned against using biotechnology to create "super" animals.

Experience so far, including the insertion of genetic material for extra growth hormone production into fertilised eggs, had resulted in unacceptable animal deformity he said.

Mr Fischlers comments, at a European Commission biotechnology conference last week, echoed those of Prince Charles, who recently admitted he was "profoundly apprehensive about many of the early signals from this brave new world".

But Mr Fischler stressed that genetic engineering did offer benefits. Nutritional products like vitamins and amino acids could be improved. And sheep had been genetically modified to produce human blood clotting factors in their milk, which could be used to treat haemophiliacs.

Biotechnology in agriculture also had the potential to combat crop diseases, and to improve both disease resistance and crop quality, said Mr Fischler. That would prevent considerable economic losses and help to reduce the use of chemicals like pesticides and insecticides.

But public fears about biotechnology had to be addressed. It was vital to convince consumers that there were advantages.

"Otherwise advances in this area will continue to be jeopardised because of societys fears which usually arise from lack of knowledge," he added. Mr Fischler called for the creation of a consumer information policy on genetic engineering. &#42