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The Biotechnology Question

A major consultation process kicks off today on some key scientific issues confronting New Zealanders as we move into the new millennium.

A booklet which raises a number of issues around biotechnology was launched today by the Independent Biotechnology Advisory Council (IBAC).

The Biotechnology Question is the first part of a public consultation on the issues surrounding biotechnology to be conducted by IBAC.

Biotechnology includes a wide range of technologies ranging from DNA fingerprinting to genetic engineering and cloning.

IBAC, which comprises 10 prominent citizens including eminent scientists from a range of disciplines, was established in May this year.

"Our role is not to try and achieve consensus on biotechnology issues, nor simply to allay fears. We value our independence highly. From time to time, we will make recommendations to the Government on some aspects of biotechnology," the Council's Convenor, Professor Peter Gluckman says.

"To help you think about possible areas for further investigation we have included a series of questions in this booklet. They're the sorts of questions that IBAC members are asking themselves," he says.

For example:

* How should private genetic information be protected? Can New Zealand's current laws deal with the complex issues of genetic information?

* Is it right to use genetic engineering to break the species barrier? Should we be 'playing God'?

* Is there an economic advantage to New Zealand in not growing GM crops?

* Do we need to legislate against human cloning? Is it possible to do so?

The free booklet has been distributed widely to people with a particular interest in biotechnology and will also be available at public libraries and Citizens Advice Bureaux. The Biotechnology Question booklet can also be ordered by sending postal details to infoibac.org.nz or, for those without e-mail access, by phoning the toll free telephone number 0800 50IBAC or 0800 504222.

The booklet is also available on the IBAC web site

(www.ibac.org.nz) for direct email reply. The IBAC Web site also contains further information about the Council and links to other sites providing information on biotechnology.

Feedback from the booklet is required by 1 November and will be analysed by an independent Christchurch-based research team.

The public consultation process will also include focus group meetings in four centres and meetings with interested agencies and groups.

The consultation is due to be completed by late November. Following the consultation, IBAC will advise the public and the Minister of Research, Science and Technology on results and identify key areas for further in-depth investigation.

The members of IBAC are:

Professor Peter Gluckman (convenor) paediatric biomedical researcher (Auckland)

Associate Professor Ingrid Winship, clinical geneticist (Auckland),

Former Chief Youth Court Judge Mick Brown (Auckland),

Mrs Anne Dickinson, involved in aid and development work (Wellington),

Mr Graham Robertson, farmer (Ashburton),

Professor Paula Jameson, scientist (Palmerston North),

Professor Donald Evans, ethicist (Dunedin),

Mr Stephen Tindall, businessman (Auckland),

Dr Stephen Goldson, ecologist (Lincoln),

Dr Janice Wright, policy analyst (Wellington).

ENDS....

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