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Biotechnology Strategy Lacks Substance

Rural Women New Zealand Media Release:

Biotechnology Strategy Lacks Substance

5 December 2002

For immediate release

The government's proposed Biotechnology Strategy is inadequate and will not provide New Zealand with a sound platform from which to tackle biotechnology issues, according to Rural Women New Zealand.

The organisation's submission to the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology on the NZ Biotechnology Strategy Discussion Document criticises the strategy and says it fails to take into account all the factors recommended by the Royal Commission on Genetic Engineering.

''The Strategy does not address many of the challenges posed by the Royal Commission. It does not propose any way of addressing concerns about cultural, ethical and spiritual issues. It does not address the need for a 'system guardian' and it does not address ways to identify trends or anticipate future opportunities and risks,'' says National Deputy President, Sherrill Dackers. ''The logical way to address these issues is to establish a Parliamentary Commissioner for Biotechnology.''

The idea to establish a Parliamentary Commissioner was recommended by the Royal Commission, but the government set it aside. Mrs Dackers says that it may now be timely to reconsider the merits of it.

''Part of the reason the Strategy lacks substance is because the work programmes of the officials dealing with the government's response to the Royal Commission is extremely fragmented,'' Mrs Dackers says. ''This is made worse by the artificial pressure of the October 2003 deadline. A Parliamentary Commissioner would bring the cohesion and focus that is clearly lacking at the moment.''

Rural Women New Zealand's submission also recommends extending the moratorium on commercial release of GE until a substantive strategy is developed.

''The Biotechnology Strategy should be the framework that underpins how New Zealand tackles the huge issues posed by GE. It would be frightening to think that this proposed strategy is all we have to go on.''


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