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HRC boss denies hurdles facing NZ scientists

Paul Hutchison National Party Science Spokesman

25 February 2005

HRC boss denies hurdles facing NZ scientists

Many scientists will be concerned to hear Dr Bruce Scoggins, chief executive of the Health Research Council, imply our regulatory regime for biotechnology research does not create undue hurdles, says National's Science spokesman, Paul Hutchison.

Dr Scoggins made the comments at the annual financial review of the HRC by the health select committee in Auckland this week.

"Many scientists say the regulatory regime for biotechnology and genomic research makes it costly and difficult to undertake research in New Zealand, thus forcing them to take it off-shore, or drop the work altogether," says Dr Hutchison.

"Labour's own biotechnology taskforce has called for an improvement to the regulatory regime, yet Dr Scoggins seems to believe it doesn't create undue hurdles to research.

"Given that New Zealand is so dependent on agriculture and horticulture for export dollars, and that future productivity gains will come from biotechnology research, it is fundamental that we make it as easy as possible for our scientists to do their research here in New Zealand," says Dr Hutchison.

"For example, a team responsible for work on Huntington's Chorea said it was much easier to go to Australia to do work on transgenic sheep because it would take too long and cost too much here.

"At Ruakura, approval for research on transgenic cows had cost more than $500,000 and taken more than two years."

"Eminent medical scientists, such as Professors Peter Gluckman and Matthew Durring, have often spoken of our prohibitory regulatory hurdles," says Dr Hutchison.

"Labour has been heavily influenced by the Greens, who claim they support medical research but insist on unrealistic rules."

ENDS

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