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GE- Royal Commission Of Inquiry Guidelines

Royal Commission Of Inquiry Into Genetic Engineering Suggested Guidelines From The Green Party

Synopsis of Task The Royal commission should:

A inquire into the scientific evidence on present and possible future applications of genetic engineering techniques in NZ and elsewhere.

B invite public submissions on the ethical issues raised by the use of these techniques in NZ and of perceptions of the risks and benefits they might create.

C evaluate those areas where the level of uncertainty - is reasonably well understood - requires further clarification and research - is such as to create unacceptable risks to human health and the environment

D assess the current and future economic risks of applying genetic engineering to food crops, animals and other organisms, including who bears those risks.

E assess the current and future economic benefits of applying genetic engineering to food crops, animals and other organisms, including who gains those benefits.

F examine spiritual and cultural dimensions which may require specific policy measures, including rights granted by the Treaty of Waitangi. G recommend a policy framework within which future Governments could protect NZ's national interests. Principal Areas of Interest

1. The likely effects on public health of genetically engineered foods and medicines.

2. The likely effects on New Zealand's biodiversity and natural ecology of the testing and release of genetically engineered organisms.

3. The likely effects on New Zealand's agricultural ecology, primary production industries and export markets of introducing genetically engineered crops and animals.

4. The scientific uncertainties surrounding the behaviour of transferred genes and transgenic organisms and the process used to create them.

5. The ethical concerns of New Zealanders relating to: - the mixing of genetic material across diverse taxa: micro-organisms, plants, animals and humans. - the ownership and patenting of life forms. - the welfare of animals used in genetic engineering. - specific Maori concerns, especially in the areas of food production, health, use of human genes, and indigenous species.

6. The criteria that should be used to decide what genetic engineering activities and products should be allowed, restricted or banned.

7. Whether the present regulatory process for safety testing and approval of foods and medicines is adequate to make decisions within this framework and if not what changes are needed.

8. Whether the present regulatory system for approval of the development, testing and use of genetically engineered organisms is adequate to make decisions within this framework and if not what changes are needed.

9. Who is liable if adverse effects result from the development, testing or use of genetically engineered organisms in New Zealand, and the legal rights of anyone so affected.

Commission Membership

The Royal commission should be appointed by Parliament and chaired by a High Court judge. It should have five members with experience covering ethics, public health, genetics, land use economics and ecology, who have the respect of a wide cross section of the NZ community. No member should have a vested interest in, or be a known advocate for or against genetic engineering, (though this does not assume that they wil not have views); or if this degree of neutrality cannot be achieved such views should be balanced across the commission.

It is important that the Government consult widely about the acceptability of the proposed members of the Commission if its recommendations are to have any status with the community.

Commission Set Up and Procedures The Commission should have a small staff of independent technical consultants. All hearings of evidence should take place in public, and in main centres around New Zealand so all citizens have a reasonable access to hearings.

Technical or scientific qualifications should not be prerequisites for appearing before the commission, because of the ethical questions addressed. Any person should be able to make representations to the commission and be heard. This needs to be explicit or the out dated standing provisions of the Commissions of Enquiry Act 1908 will prevail by default.

It is important that all evidence can be tested. The commission should appoint counsel to assist submitters wishing to question witnesses. It may be appropriate to appoint two counsel, one to cross examine witnesses supporting genetic engineering and the other to cross examine those opposing it.

Submitters could then route their questions through the appropriate qualified legal counsel.

Moratorium There should be an immediate moratorium on applications for or approvals of the release or outdoor field trials of transgenic crops, animals or other organisms and on the approval of any further transgenic foods for sale in New Zealand. The moratorium should not be lifted until Parliament has considered the commission's report, and Government has made decisions on its recommendations.

Report of the Commission The commission should be allowed up to 2 years to reach its conclusions. Its report should be placed before Parliament with recommendations for an overall framework that would assist decision making authorities to allow, restrict or ban particular types of genetic engineering.

ENDS


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