01/10/02 GMO

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Animal Friends would like to invite you to join our campaign and convince the Croatian Government - in particular the Ministry of Environmental Protection - that a ban on the import, production and usage of genetically modified food would be the right decision to make. Animal Friends are organizing this campaign to draw the attention to the suffering of animals that will be genetically manipulated and to the danger that lies in genetically modified food.

The campaign will take place on Thursday, January 10 at 4:40 P.M. on the Ban Josip Jelacic Square, where we will distribute leaflets containing information about the dangers of genetic manipulation and the suffering of animals involved.

By banning genetically modified food, Croatia would be the second European country - Austria being the first - that protects its manufacturers and farmers, and protect its citizens from genetically modified products that are harmful to a person's health. By adopting this position, the Croatian Government would show willingness and strength - even before the Law has been passed, the US Embassy is threatening to force their ideas through the World Trade Organization (WTO). Minister Kovacevic of Environmental Protection stresses that a ban on genetically modified food would be a considerable help to domestic food manufacturers as well as tourism, and Animal Friends believe that such a ban would be a good and wise to make for Croatia.

As the treatment of animals in genetic engineering is not well known to the public, Animal Friends would like to draw the attention to the severe cruelty and the maltreatment of various animal species that will be used. Below you can find more information about genetic manipulation and its connection to animal suffering.

We believe that by adopting a law that bans genetically modified food, the Government will not only protect food manufacturers, farmers and the health of the citizens of Croatia, but it will also protect the environment and countless animals. We therefore welcome this move and we give our full support to minister Kovacevic and the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Below you will find a chapter taken from the book The Livewire Guide to Going, Being and Staying Veggie!, which was published in Croatia last year and is written by Juliet Gellatley - a famous British activist and founder of the organization VIVA! (Vegetarian International Voice for Animals). This chapter talks about the suffering of animals in genetic manipulation:

"One of the first known genetic engineering disasters was a poor creature in America called the Beltsville pig. It was meant to be a meaty super big and, to make it grow bigger and faster, scientists introduced a human growth gene into the DNA of an ordinary pig. What they produced was a big pig which was in constant pain.

The Beltsville pig had joints so diseased with chronic arthritis that when it tried to walk, it could only crawl on its knees. It couldn't stand up and most of the time it lay still, suffering from a whole range of other diseases. This obvious experimental disaster was the pig that scientists allowed the public to see - there were other pigs from the same experiment which were in such a disgusting state that they were kept locked behind closed doors.

But the lesson of the Beltsville pig hasn't stopped the experimenting. In fact, genetic scientists have now produced a supermouse, double the size of of an ordinary mouse. This mouse was created by introducing a human gene into the supermouse's DNA that causes cancer to grow extremely fast. Scientists are now trying the same gene out in pigs but because people wouldn't want to eat meat that had a cancer gene in it, they've renamed it a "growth gene."

In the case of the Belgium Blue cow, genetic engineers identified the gene responsible for increasing the cow's muscle size and doubled it, thereby ensuring bigger, meatier calves. There was also, unfortunately, a downside. The female cows born as a result of this tinkering have slimmer hips and a narrower pelvis than normal - the very part of the body a calf has to pass through during birth.

It's not too difficult to work out what happens. A bigger calf and a narrower birth passage mean that it is often extremely painful for the mother to deliver her calf. Mostly, the genetically altered cows are unable to give birth at all. The solution is to cut them open (in what's called a caesarian section) and remove the calves. This operation may be carried out every year, sometimes for each delivery and each time the cow is cut open, the more painful it becomes. In the end the knife is cutting not through normal flesh but thick scar tissue, which takes longer and longer to heal. We know that when women have multiple caesarian births (something that luckily doesn't happen too often) the operation is excruciatingly painful. It's the same for the cow. Even scientists and vets agree that the Belgian Blue cow must suffer great pain - but the process goes on just the same.

An even weirder bit of tinkering has been done to Swiss Brown cows. It was discovered that these cows had a genetic weakness which meant they often developed a particular brain disease. Bud oddly, when this disease flared up, the cows gave more milk. When scientists located the gene that caused this disease they didn't use the knowledge to cure it - they made sure the cows got the disease just so they would give more milk. Scary, or what?

In Israel, scientists have found the gene in chickens that is responsible for featherless necks as well as the one responsible for curly feathers. Using the two genes together they have created a bird that is almost bald. The few feathers it does have are curly, exposing the bare flesh beneath. The reason? So producers can factory farm chickens in the heat of the Negev desert where temperatures reach a blistering 45°C.

So what other little treats are in store? Some of the projects I've heard about include research into producing hairless pigs, experiments with creating wingless battery chickens so more can be crammed into each cage, as well as work aimed at producing sexless cattle, and vegetables with fish genes.

Scientists insist that it is safe to alter nature in this way. But a big animal, like a pig, contains millions of genes; and scientists have mapped just a hundred of these at most. When a gene is changed or a gene from another animal is introduced, they have no idea how the other genes are going to react - they can only guess. And no one can say what the long-term consequences may be. (It's a bit like the builders on our imaginary building site changing a steel beam for a wooden one because it looks prettier. It might hold the building up - but on the other hand, it might not!)

Other concerned scientists have made some pretty worrying forecasts about what this new science might bring. Some say that genetic engineering could produce a whole new range of diseases for which our bodies have no resistance. Where genetic engineering has been used to change insects, some scientists are worried that it might result in new, uncontrollable pests.

The multinational companies responsible for introducing and encouraging this research offer all kinds of reason why genetic experiments must go on. They say that it will result in fresher, tastier, different and maybe even cheaper food. Some even claim it will be possible to feed the world's starving people. This is just an excuse. A comprehensive report from the World Health Organization in 1995 made it clear that there's enough food to feed everyone on the planet already; and that other economic and political reasons are preventing it from reaching those in need. There is no evidence to show that the money invested in genetic engineering will be used for anything other than to make a profit.

The long-term results of genetic engineering may be a disaster but there's one thing we already know - animals are already suffering in the race to produce more and more meat as quickly and cheaply as possible."



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