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Calls for Independent Bioethics Council to be Reestablished

Calls for an Independent Bioethics Council to be Reestablished

The Royal Society of New Zealand (RSNZ) - Te Apārangi is encouraging New Zealanders to submit their views on the uses of gene editing in the area of Health, Human embryos, and Pest control [1]

Questions are being asked about whether the Royal Society is the most appropriate body to consult on the ethics and morals of gene editing. Gene Editing is a new technology that uses a variety of genetically engineered enzyme technologies like CRISPA/Cas, TALENs, Zinc Finger Nuclease and dsRNA.

The phrasing of the RSNZ questions appear to be promoting gene editing as the latest fad for shaping health outcomes and pest management.

"Our concern is that serious and complex issues are being presented in a simplistic and inherently misleading way," said Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-Free NZ.

Further concerns have been raised by the involvement of foreign organisations seeking to promote novel genetic engineering techniques.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military [2]. They sought permission to trial gene edited rats for release on an off shore island. The Minister for Conservation, Eugenie Sage, turned this down [3].

There are many risks associated with this technology and the ability to control the downsides of this technology are incalculable. If these animals are released they cannot be recalled.

“The consultation by the Royal Society has been very biased,” said Claire Bleakley, president of GE Free NZ.

“The complexities of gene editing have been turned into a series of cartoons, and the absence of any information on the risks is a major error. It appears they are trying to create a patina of simplicity which is misleading for the general public.”

Gene editing of embryos is a form of eugenics. The responsibility for upholding the fundamental integrity of human life and preserving the economic livelihoods and health of New Zealanders must be clearly defined by regulation in the laboratory and prohibiting the use of all genetic engineering technologies in the open environment.

Send your feedback to Dr Marc Rands (

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