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Bioethics Council likely to be talkfest

Bioethics Council likely to be talkfest

The jury will be out for a while yet on whether the new Bioethics Council will be anything more than a place for interesting philosophical debate, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.

The Government today announced the membership of Toi te Taiao: The Bioethics Council, which was recommended by the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification. Environment Minister Marian Hobbs said the advisory body would be charged with enhancing New Zealand's understanding of the cultural, ethical and spiritual aspects of biotechnology, and ensuring that the values held by New Zealanders were considered in its use.

Ms Fitzsimons said: "While I have nothing against the people appointed to the Bioethics Council, and I am sure they have New Zealand's best interests at heart, the fact is that the Government has not given them any role in decision-making. The Government wants them only to draw attention to future developments we might not have thought about yet.

"New Zealanders are feeling very disillusioned that the hundreds of thousands of people - who made submissions to the Royal Commission, or sent postcards asking for genetic engineering to be confined to the laboratory, or marched twice in Auckland against the release of GE - have been ignored."

"The Government has shown itself determined to proceed regardless of the will of the people, and ERMA (the Environmental Risk Management Authority) has approved projects contrary to the advice of its own Maori advisory committee, set up under its Act to consider Maori cultural and ethical values," Ms Fitzsimons said.

"I wish the new council well. But I will be surprised if New Zealanders feel it is worthwhile engaging with."

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