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GM research moratorium keeps NZ's options open

17 April 2000

GM research moratorium keeps NZ's options open

The voluntary moratorium on genetic modification research during the Royal Commission into Genetic Modification is designed to keep New Zealand's future options open, says Minister for Research, Science and Technology Pete Hodgson.
Mr Hodgson said the criteria and conditions of the moratorium had been very carefully developed to ensure GM experimentation while the Commission proceeded could have no irreversible impact.
"The point of the Commission is to help New Zealanders decide the future of genetic modification in this country. Keeping our options open means preventing the release of genetically modified organisms into our environment. It also means preventing the inadvertent destruction of our research capacity."
Mr Hodgson said New Zealand's legislative regime governing GM experiments and field trials – the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, administered by the Environmental Risk Management Authority – was already one of the strictest in the world. It included the precautionary principle, which required caution if any risk was uncertain because of a lack of information.
"We have introduced even tighter controls in the moratorium in recognition of the higher degree of assurance required while the Royal Commission is under way. It is clear this will prevent some experimentation that might otherwise have proceeded. However I believe the impact will be modest, given the strictness of the conditions already applying to genetic modification research in New Zealand."
Mr Hodgson said Crown Research Institutes would comply with the moratorium. He rejected the Green Party's call for publicly funded scientists to withdraw from all GM research.
"Having so carefully developed the criteria and conditions of the moratorium, the Government does not consider that its own researchers should be subject to stricter constraints than others."


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