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GE decision sensible

The Government’s decision to allow genetic modification field trials to go ahead with tight controls but extend the moratorium on the commercial release of genetically modified organisms is a pragmatic way forward, says Massey University scientists. But they say, more education is needed to ensure sensible and unemotive debate in the future.

"It is a practical outcome given the huge amount of lobbying from both sides of the argument," says genetic biologist Professor Barry Scott.

The outcome will allow continued research into genetically modified organisms in the laboratory – which is good news for researchers, says Professor Scott, and will allow scientists to conduct contained field trials which are essential to find out the what happens to a genetically modified crop when it is grown outside, in the soil.

Head of the Institute of Molecular BioSciences Professor Pat Sullivan says the decision is a signal to the research sector that they can get on with their work. But he hopes the wording of the recommendations will give the commercial sector some confidence that after the two years is up, commercial release will be a possibility. "They need assurance to encourage investment, otherwise there will be no one to invest in the knowledge we generate."

He says there is now a big obligation on the research community to communicate with the public to help them understand the issues.

"We need to explain the possibilities. There is a large group out there that is not well informed. They deserve to have all the information on which to make decisions."

Professor Scott says the University will continue to educate the public about the role genetic engineering can play in achieving knowledge and growth. "More education is needed so the community can enter into informed debate and we can have reach sensible decisions instead of the emotive hype that has been generated by some parties in the recent debate."

College of Sciences Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Robert Anderson was one of a group of eight prominent scientists who placed an advertisement in the New Zealand Herald recently stating GM research is essential for the future economic wealth and prosperity.


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