Crop Biotech Update

New Zealand Scientific Body Pushes for GE Regulation Update

August 14, 2019

A panel convened by the Royal Society Te Apārangi has concluded that New Zealand's (NZ) genetic engineering (GE) regulations need to be updated to cope with the rapid advances of the technology. The findings of their investigation were summarized into several reports that defines what is now considered genetic modification and weighs in the benefits and risks of each specific application.

GE and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are regulated in New Zealand through the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act of 2003. Through the said reports, the Panel recognizes that it is now time for change and the said outdated act needs to be overhauled.

Looking into the Panel's specific report on Legal and Regulatory Implications, it starts with a statement that organisms cannot be classified simply as GMO and non-GMO in modern times. The NZ community should also be involved in determining how these new gene technologies should be used. Thus, shared definition of terms will help in constructive debate in identifying the pros and cons of the technologies, while still taking the NZ's diverse cultural views into consideration. Community engagement is highly encouraged by the Panel.

The report also includes the Panel's suggestion to update the regulations to ensure that it is compatible with other countries' own regulations, especially when it comes to trade and movement of GMOs. They recommend a risk-tiered approach towards gene editing where regulatory burden is in proportion with risk. Lastly, it was advised that the capacity and capabilities of the communities, the research sector and the government should be continuously developed and supported to achieve sound decisions and policies about gene technologies.

To conclude, it is important that New Zealand has its own means to assess the development and opportunities towards GE and GMOs. This can be achieved through updating the current regulations through careful consideration of each recommendation from the Panel.

See the Legal and Regulatory Implications Report and the Compiled Reports from the Royal Society Te Apārangi.

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