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Genetic Regulation Overhaul Overdue

Press Release: Life Sciences Network Inc.

12 August 2019 (Embargoed until 9:30pm, Monday 12 August)

Genetic Regulation Overhaul Overdue

“The Life Sciences Network welcomes the Royal Society report calling for an overhaul of gene-technology regulations and a wide public discussion,” its chair, Dr William Rolleston said today.

The Royal Society convened an expert panel to consider the implications of new genetic technologies, including gene editing, which concluded it’s time for an overhaul of the regulations.

“The Life Sciences Network agrees and considers it is timely that the Royal Society, our peak science body, is joining the growing call from scientists, politicians and farmers.”

In 2014 a group of farmer, agriculture and biotechnology industry organisations wrote to the Minister for the Environment asking the government to review the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act which regulates genetically modified organisms. They were concerned the Act was no longer fit for purpose, restricted access to new genetic technologies, such as gene editing, and was having a detrimental effect on innovation in New Zealand.

“The government of the time did not proceed but recent calls for a review of the Act have come from the National Party, New Zealand First, TOP, even Greens Minister, James Shaw and now the Royal Society.”

“Under current law any breeding technique developed after 1996 requires regulation. This is akin to saying only cars built in the last two decades require a warrant of fitness,” Dr Rolleston said.

“Both the 2014 letter to the minister and the Royal Society report agree that regulation of organisms should be based on risk rather than the way it was produced or on an arbitrary date.”

“Genetic technology is powerful, and no one is calling for complete deregulation, but when regulated sensibly it could be a useful tool in our struggle against climate change, to save our birds, rid the country of predators and reduce agriculture’s impact on the environment,” concluded Dr Rolleston.

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