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Talking Biotechnology

Talking Biotechnology

Biotechnology is fundamentally changing our lives – the food we eat, the clothes we wear, our approach to illness and even the way we bring our children into the world.

International experts and groups involved with the key issues of biotechnology will spend four days exploring how advances in biotechnology are impacting on society at a conference to be launched by the Minister of Research, Science & Technology, the Hon Steve Maharey, on Tuesday 29 November.

Talking Biotechnology, organised by Victoria University, will run from 29 November to 2 December at Pipitea Campus. The event seeks to explore how the dialogue surrounding biotechnology has evolved and how that evolution has impacted, or might impact, upon society.

Twelve keynote speakers and more than 50 other experts will discuss topics as varied as ‘mothers and biotechnology’, ‘the Christian community in New Zealand enters the biotech debate’, ‘commercialisation of biotechnology in India’ and ‘responsible journalism in the biotech debate’.

Associate Professor Sally Davenport, conference co-convenor, says the event will be of great interest to all those involved in the ‘social’ aspects of science and technology, including policy makers, regulators, educators, business people and media, as well as biotechnologists and academic researchers.

“The global biotechnology field is rapidly growing and changing as new biotechnologies with wide-ranging and innovative applications are developed. Public debate must keep up with so this conference provides an exciting and important forum which will enable productive and inspiring ‘biotechnology talk'.

“The line-up includes the most amazing group of international experts on the social aspects of biotechnology to visit New Zealand at one time. New Zealand researchers, who are at leading edge of global developments, will be presenting their latest findings and updating us on key government funded projects.”

Speakers will focus on three main themes during the conference:

The Business of Biotechnology Barry Bozeman, Regents Professor of Public Policy at Georgia Tech will speak on university biotech centres and industry relations in the United States. Alan Irwin, Professor of Science and Technology at the University of Liverpool will discuss scientific governance in Europe. Neville Jordan, one of New Zealand’s high-tech entrepreneurs and CEO of Protemix, will speak on his experiences of ‘going global with biotech from New Zealand’, with new venture Pacific Gem. Leader of New Zealand’s sustainable biotechnology project and Professor in the University of Waikato Management School will discuss ‘optimism and caution: exploring the dynamics of sustainable biotechnology’.

Communicating Biotechnology Robert Heath from the University of Houston will speak on risk communication and biotechnology. Jenny Kitzinger, Professor of Media Communication at Cardiff University, will speak on the source-media relationships and the role media may play in future dialogued around biotech. Michael Elmes, Professor of Organisational Studies at America’s Worcester Polytechnic Institute, will discuss myth, influence and resistance in the genetic engineering debate in New Zealand. Aroha Mead, senior lecturer in Business at Victoria Management School, will speak on indigenous responses to biotechnology.

Legal, Regulatory and Ethical Issues for Biotechnology Christopher Newell, Associate Professor of Medical Ethics at the University of Tasmania and Gerard Groggin, Antarctic Research Centre fellow will speak on ‘the importance of suffering: disability, biotechnology and the good life’. Cardiff University’s Rob Evans will speak on ‘learning to value the disinterested citizen’ and Brian Wynne, Professor and Research Director for Environmental Change at Lancaster University will speak on ‘public value science’.

Media are invited to attend the launch of Talking Biotechnology, at the Welcome Reception at Te Papa on Tuesday 29 November at 6.30pm (prompt), as well as any conference sessions. Contact Sophia Lum on 04 463 5714 to RSVP and to organise any interviews. The programme and biographies of speakers can be found at

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