AgResearch has dropped plans to make genetically modified buffalo, pigs, llamas, alpacas, horses and deer after an environmental watchdog said the proposals were so broad it was impossible to weigh up the risks.

Staff at the Environmental Risk Management Authority (Erma) said the unlimited range of genetic modifications proposed in four applications by AgResearch meant they could not tell which GM organisms would be created.

The proposed trials were for an unlimited time and and there was no proposed location specified.

That meant the authority could not weigh up the risks, said a preliminary staff report. It recommended Erma should turn down the applications.

AgResearch's applied technologies group manager, Dr Jimmy Suttie, said the Crown-owned company accepted Erma's position.

It would carry on with the applications but limit the species to mainly cattle, sheep and goats, which it already worked with.

The decision was a partial victory for anti-GM campaigners, who tried to block Erma from considering the applications because they were too general.

In March, the Court of Appeal quashed a High Court ruling blocking the applications, saying it was up to Erma to decide if they were too generic.

GE-Free NZ is waiting to hear if its appeal has been accepted by the Supreme Court.

AgResearch wanted to modify livestock to make antigens, biopharmaceuticals, enzymes, hormones and other products with possible health benefits and commercial applications.

It also wanted to import small animals and micro-organisms and use cell-lines from them as research models for livestock.

The company already has permission to modify cows, sheep and goats for the next 20 years at Ruakura Research Centre in Hamilton in a bid to get the animals to make proteins in their milk that could be used to treat human diseases.

That research is backed by the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders, a group of people and parents of people with rare genetic diseases.

It hopes the project will find better and cheaper treatments for serious diseases such as lysomal disorders.

Meanwhile, the Green Party yesterday called for an independent inquiry into animal welfare and ethics at Ruakura after revelations in the Herald about calves whose ovaries grew so large they caused ruptures and killed the animals.

Green MP Sue Kedgley said she would propose the idea to the parliamentary select committee on education and science.

The calves that died were part of a long-term project to try to create animals containing human genetic code that "switches on" when they lactate and produces human proteins in their milk.

The three calves died last year after scientists used genetic code, a human follicle-stimulating gene (FSH), that for unknown reasons affected the animals' whole bodies instead of only their mammary glands.

AgResearch reports said the calves seemed otherwise healthy and there was no indication that they suffered before they died.

A fourth calf containing the human FSH gene that did not have over-grown ovaries is alive and being studied to try to figure out what went wrong with the other three.

The public will have a chance to have a say on the narrowed applications for the latest proposed trials at a hearing in Wellington next month.