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Formal Hearings Concluded Today

Wellington - 15 March 2001: The Royal Commission on Genetic Modification today concluded the formal phase of its consultation programme.

Closing submissions by the Green Party, New Zealand Organisation for Rare Diseases & Lysosomal Diseases New Zealand, Interchurch Commission on Genetic Engineering and Pacific Institute of Resource Management were the final presentations the Commission heard in its Formal Hearings of "interested persons".

The Commission's final consultation with the New Zealand public will be at its three-day national hui - to be held at Turangawaewae Marae, Ngaruawahia, on 6, 7 and 8 April 2001.

In its formal consultation process alone, the Commission has heard from approximately 330 people in 58 days, resulting in close to 5,000 pages of transcripts. The Commission has also attended 15 public meetings, 10 regional hui and one Youth Forum and it has received more than 10,000 written submissions from the general public.

"The Commission was directed to consult with the people of New Zealand in a way that allowed them to express their views clearly. We gave a lot of thought to our processes, and received much help from the participants," said Commission chairman Sir Thomas Eichelbaum.

"We have not pleased everyone, and as indeed we have pointed out from time to time, that was neither our intention nor our function. We believe however that we have fulfilled the aim we expressed at the outset - to give everyone who wished to present views to us, a fair and reasonable opportunity."

All material submitted to the Commission is being considered by the Commissioners. In his closing address, Counsel assisting the Commission, John Upton, QC, thanked the Commission for its "unfailing display of fairness, courtesy and equanimity at all times". "That in turn I know has contributed very much to the good humoured and professional way in which most presentations have been made".

The Commissioners also took the opportunity to thank the "interested persons" for their contribution and acknowledged the support they have received from various communities.

Copies of the closing submissions, statements and transcripts of the proceedings will be available on the Commission's website: www.gmcommission.govt.nz.

The Commission has spent almost a quarter of its time in direct consultation with the New Zealand public. It will now spend the next two months preparing its report, which is due on 1 June 2001. ENDS

The Royal Commission on Genetic Modification was established by Order in Council on 8 May 2000 and is chaired by Sir Thomas Eichelbaum. The other members of the Commission are Dr Jacqueline Allan, Dr Jean Fleming and the Rt Rev Richard Randerson. The Commission is required to report by 1 June 2001.


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