New Zealand genetic modification laws need an overhaul

genetic modification

An expert panel has been set up by Royal Society Te Apārangito consider the implications of new technologies that allow much more controlled and precise ‘editing’ of genes.

It has concluded it’s time for an overhaul of the regulations and that there’s an urgent need for wide discussion and debate about gene editing within and across all New Zealand communities.

Expert panel Co-chair Dr David Penman said that there is a need to move on from a black and white view of “GM or not GM” – to a much more nuanced view that recognises a wide range of applications of the technology, some of which may be more acceptable to New Zealand communities than others.

He said that while there have been a number of international summits on the use of gene editing, it was important that New Zealand develop its own view.

“New Zealand needs to have its own perspective given our unique cultural heritage and environment, the special challenges we face in maintaining our biodiversity and a viable and productive primary industry, and our unique regulatory environment.

“Furthermore, there has been no review of gene technologies in New Zealand since the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification held in 2001 and the subsequent amendments to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (1996).

But not everyone agrees with the Royal Commission’s conclusions.

In 2014 New Zealand’s High Court ruled that new gene-editing techniques are techniques of genetic modification.

A recent European court ruling also upheld this decision.

The existing legislation “remains robust and fit for purpose,” says Jodie Bruning writing for Stuff.

Bruning says the existing legislation  “has adopted a praiseworthy precautionary approach.”

It recognises that unanticipated problems stemming from genetic engineering.

She says that there are many problems with potential applications of the new editing tools. The downstream consequences are difficult to anticipate.


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News category: New Zealand.

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