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Moratorium poses unnecessary risks to NZ science

Moratorium on GM field trials poses unnecessary risks to New Zealand science


The decision of the Cabinet to seek a moratorium on field trials during the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Genetic Engineering puts the scientific base of New Zealand’s economic wealth at risk according to the New Zealand Life Sciences Network.

The Chairman of the Life Sciences Network, Dr William Rolleston, described the Cabinet’s decision as a political cop out.

“The Labour Party was elected on a policy platform including a moratorium which was limited to commercial release. When the Government announced it was considering the possibility of a moratorium during the Royal Commission the scientific community and industry, through the Life Sciences Network, offered a voluntary moratorium on commercial release so the country could avoid the necessity for a legislated moratorium.

“For political reasons, which ignore the risks to science and the long term benefit of the economy, the Cabinet has decided to negotiate a voluntary moratorium on field trials.

“The New Zealand Life Sciences Network (Inc) will represent the interests of its members (which are synonymous with those of the country) and seek to get an agreement which allows science to proceed; the public to be assured about the safety of the research being undertaken; and the Royal Commission to complete its deliberations in an environment where scientists and the research community can participate without one hand being tied behind their backs.

“The Royal Commission’s task is to examine the full range of issues surrounding biotechnology, life sciences, and genetic modification. A moratorium which stops science proceeding would predetermine some of the key questions the Royal Commission must answer.

“We have confidence in the existing regulatory process managed by the Environmental Risk Management Authority and therefore believe the moratorium is an unnecessary extra hurdle.

“We will endeavour to persuade Ministers with responsibility for science and the environment to adopt a rational approach to the proposed voluntary moratorium. The biotechnology sector needs an assurance that decades of research will not be dissipated. Should we fail to get that assurance the future for New Zealand’s agriculture and economy looks pretty bleak,” said Dr Rolleston.

For further information

Dr William Rolleston
Interim Chairman
New Zealand Life Sciences Network (Inc)
Ph (03) 6126688

Or

Francis Wevers
Executive Director
New Zealand Life Sciences Network (Inc)
Ph (04) 9160100
(021) 916010

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