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Science unlocks doors to a better society

16 October 2003

Shaping Tomorrow: science unlocks doors to a better society

Fifty years after the discovery of DNA, the intertwining of science and society is stronger than ever before. Scientific expertise and specialist skills are playing a key role in shaping the society of tomorrow and ESR’s Annual Report, tabled in Parliament today, gives cause for optimism.

Every contact leaves a trace: Advances in DNA profiling technology have provided a valuable tool in solving historic crimes, as shown in the Teresa Cormack murder case. “The use of DNA profiling now plays an important role in criminal justice systems worldwide.” (ESR Annual Report, 2003).

An eye on your health: The recent SARS threat has demonstrated the value of maintaining effective public health surveillance systems. “What became evident was that China’s disease surveillance system failed them and their neighbours. Infectious disease does not respect national boundaries.” (ESR Annual Report, 2003).

Informing Debate – the GE question: Just what risks, if any, the release of genetically modified organisms pose to the environment is becoming known. The technology used to identify and characterise bacteria at the molecular level is now being applied to the field of environmental microbiology. The conditions that influence horizontal gene transfer in the New Zealand environment are being determined, in order to better understand any potential threat from genetically modified organisms.

Safeguarding our economy: New Zealanders love shellfish, and they are a growing export sector. In a collaborative research project, ESR is working with the New Zealand shellfish industry to develop food safety measures to ensure our shellfish remain on the menu both here and around the globe.

Other highlights from the ESR Annual Report (FY ended June 2003):
- Revenue of $33.2 million (14% growth and $1 million ahead of budget)
- A record $1.1 million surplus after tax (150% growth)
- A $505,000 capital investment in the meningococcal vaccine project
- Fighting the rising tide of illicit drug laboratories (143% increase in methamphetamine clandestine laboratory cases)
- Accreditation by IANZ for the analysis of genetically modified food – the first such laboratory accreditation in Australasia
- Forensic training to the police, judiciary and scientists in the Philippines
- ESR is building a greater understanding of the interdependence of people and their physical and social environment. This understanding is especially enhanced by our growing relationship with Maori hapu and iwi


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