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Royal Commission endorses a science-based future

Royal Commission endorses a science-based future for NZ

The Report of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification sets a very clear, science based, course for New Zealand to follow the Chairman of the NZ Life Sciences Network, Dr William Rolleston, said today.

“We are grateful to the Royal Commission for its explicit rejection of the idea of a New Zealand free of all GM material at one extreme, or at the option of unrestricted use of GM at the other.”

“As the Network has argued throughout the last two years, and in particular during the Royal Commission’s hearings, the future economic, social, health and environmental well-being of our country depends on our scientists and developers being able to use gene technology responsibly and with appropriate caution.

“The Commission’s Report is a ringing endorsement of the regulatory structures we have in New Zealand and our approach to the public interest issues involved in genetic modification.

“It is great we can see a return to the status quo as it existed before the Royal Commission commenced its hearings.

“The recommendations for the establishment of a Bioethics Council, a Parliamentary Commissioner for Biotechnology and a comprehensive biotechnology strategy for New Zealand have considerable merit and will be the subject of keen discission with the Government.

“We are extremely pleased the Royal Commission has accepted the need for us to be able to undertake field trials of GM crops to test their environmental impacts prior to commercialisation. We have always argued this is an essential, and safe, way of establishing what the consequences of any release are likely to be.

“There is now no reason for the Government to continue the voluntary moratorium on applications for field trials and, as a first step towards normalisation, we urge the Minister for the Environment to issue a Gazette Notice reinstating the ability of the Environmental Risk Management Authority to receive applications for field trials.

“There are many detailed recommendations contained in the Report which the Government and the Network are yet to consider. We welcome the announcements from the Prime Minister indicating the details of the consultative process we will work through over the next few weeks. The Life Sciences Network will make a detailed contribution to that process on behalf of its members.

“We would like to thank the four members of the Royal Commission for the tremendous job they have done. Nowhere else in the world has such a task been undertaken. They have shown by the quality of their Report what can be done if a rigorous but fair and inclusive process is followed. The whole of New Zealand owes the Royal Commissioners a debt of gratitude for their contribution to this most important global debate. This Report will reverberate well beyond New Zealand’s shores.

“We call on the Green Party and the other opponents of genetic modification in New Zealand to study the report carefully and to work with the science community to make the future prosperous for all New Zealanders.

“We can understand their disappointment but congratulate them, as we did in our closing submissions, on the contribution they have made to this debate. It’s clear not all issues have been finally resolved but we believe the Report contains recommendations for a trustworthy and credible process to help us resolve those issues over time if the Government gets its policy settings right.

“We are now looking forward to studying the Commission’s Report in detail,” concluded Dr Rolleston

ENDS

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