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Government Must Secure IBAC's Future

Media Statement
For immediate release

Rt Hon Simon Upton

10 January 2000

Government Must Secure IBAC's Future

The Government must move swiftly to confirm an on-going role for the Independent Biotechnology Advisory Committee (IBAC) according to National MP, Simon Upton.

Mr Upton was commenting following the release of IBAC's briefing papers to the in-coming government. IBAC was set up by the previous National Government to provide an independent body which could stimulate debate on important emerging issues in genomics and biotechnology.

"IBAC has rightly noted that the proposed Commission of Inquiry into genetic engineering can only provide a one-off - and inevitably retrospective - evaluation of the issues. In such a fast moving field of scientific research, there is a need for on-going debate as well. IBAC is as well placed to facilitate that debate as anyone and is able to call on some very experienced members with wisely differing skills."

"The new Ministers of Research Science & Technology and Environment must confer swiftly and confirm an on-going role for IBAC in addition to their proposed Commission of Inquiry."

"The Minister of Science, in particular, must reassure scientists that one of the most significant areas of contemporary research will not be subject to knee-jerk, politically-driven analysis. It is crucial that all sides in this debate know that sound science and an holistic approach to risk management will be adopted. If that reassurance cannot be given, New Zealand could see a rapid exodus of some of its most important researchers."

Mr Upton said he also agreed with a weakness identified by IBAC in the science system he had been responsible for building.

"IBAC is right to observe that the science reforms of the last 10 years have meant that some of the continuity and perceived lack of bias associated with the old DSIR has disappeared. Inevitably, the stronger wealth-creation focus of CRIs has given rise to the perception that they no longer speak for the wider public interest. While the CRI's statute requires them to keep the public interest to the fore, perceptions are very important where issues such as genetic engineering are involved. IBAC provides a very valuable means of reassuring the public that there is a body charged with facilitating public debate at arms length from commercial or regulatory agencies."

"Pete Hodgson and Marion Hobbs would do well to heed IBAC's advice."

IBAC's briefing to the incoming government can be viewed at its website, http://www.ibac.org.nz.


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