Position Statements on Biotechnology
New Zealand Royal Commission
On the 30th of July 2001,the New Zealand Royal Commission into Genetic Modification (RCGM) finally released its recommendations to the Cabinet. The 1200-page report was the outcome of 14 months of consultation with advocates and opponents of genetic modification (GM). The Commission was an independent review panel set up to report to the government on the options available to New Zealand to deal with genetic modification, and to advise on appropriate changes to government policy, regulatory legislation, public institutions, and the future direction of biotechnology and associated research. This inquiry was a first of its kind in the world.
Briefly, it stated that "genetic modification (GM) holds exciting promise, not only for conquering diseases, eliminating pests and contributing to the knowledge economy, but for enhancing the international competitiveness of the primary industries so important to our country's economic well being." The Commission said that it would like to see this happen in an atmosphere that "encourages the coexistence of all forms of agriculture." Nevertheless, it stressed that "we should proceed carefully by minimizing and managing risks." Its consultation process involved 15 public meetings, 11 hui, 29 workshops, 1 youth forum, and 13 weeks of hearings from 107 interested persons. The Commission also received more than 10,000 public submissions and conducted a public opinion survey of 1153 New Zealanders.
The RCGM report has been favorably received by the international scientific community. Many have commented that "an admirable level of scientific rigor was applied to the vast pile of submissions received by the RCGM, which consisted of a retired chief justice, a cleric, a scientist and a teacher. The RCGM process afforded all sides to present their best case, and exposed factual error and unfounded hyperbole when it was encountered". The RCGM did not endorse GM technology entirely or ban it completely. It has recommended that research on GM crops and animals "proceed with caution".
After three months of intense discussion, the New Zealand government finally responded to the RCGM report. It has decided to lift the ban on field trials for GM crops, but it imposed tough new rules on any new trials and banned the commercial release of GM products for two years.
Prime Minister Helen Clark said "science and research must continue with strict controls in place to protect the health of New Zealanders and the environment.
Click here to get a copy of the the report.
and Agricultural Organization
Society of African Scientists
United States of America
Biotechnology Advisory Committee
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