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Forest Research agrees to voluntary moratorium

Tuesday 31 October 2000

Press Release
Forest Research agrees to voluntary moratorium

Forest Research announced today that it will delay planned field trials of genetically engineered trees until after the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification has completed its investigation, and the current voluntary moratorium on field trials is lifted.

Forest Research has two applications for trials of genetically-engineered forest trees lodged with the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA). Public hearings on these applications will occur in Rotorua on 1-3 November 2000.

Chief Executive Bryce Heard said “We are taking this step in order to be seen to be acting responsibly and in accordance with the spirit of the voluntary moratorium.”

“Forest Research views ERMA’s public hearings and the Royal Commission Inquiry as the appropriate fora for constructive discussion of the role of gene technologies in New Zealand. This week’s ERMA hearings will largely focus on the technical aspects of our proposed field trials and our monitoring of them. We want to make best use of this forum, and welcome all to express their views. The Royal Commission findings will provide an over-arching framework for the use of gene technologies in New Zealand. Delaying our field trials until after the Royal Commission has presented its recommendations will also enable us to advance consultations with local iwi interests here in Rotorua.

Portfolio Manager Dr Tom Richardson said, “As a research organisation that is not a commercial forest owner, our focus is on science. Our staff pride themselves on carrying out careful and thorough scientific research aimed at using a range of technologies to understand tree performance. Genetic engineering is one powerful new tool that we can use to understand the influence of specific genes on tree characteristics.”

“Despite our commitment to utilising gene technologies to advance our understanding of forest trees and our strong belief that the proposed field trials do not pose any significant risks to the environment or human health, we feel that this is the most publicly responsible decision”.

For more information contact: Dr Tom Richardson, Telephone: 07 343 5820; Facsimile: 07 343 5553; E-mail: tom.richardson@forestresearch.co.nz

ENDS

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