Molecular geneticists and biologists from Massey University have welcomed the report from the Royal Commission inquiry
into genetic engineering saying it would open the way for New Zealand to become more competitive with Australia and
Molecular geneticist Professor Barry Scott says the report is very positive from a research perspective. It’s
recommendations to allow researchers to submit applications on a project basis rather than an organism basis would make
research easier, faster and more cost effective. He says the HASNO Act imposed by ERMA is too prescriptive.
He says the recommendation that researchers wanting to conduct field trials undertake research into the soil and
ecosystems first is a step further than current legislation goes and allows genetic engineering research to proceed but
in a much more cautionary way.
Proposing researchers carry out studies into ethical and cultural impacts of the release of genetically modified
organisms is a big step forward, as is the establishment of as an independent bioethics council, which would provide a
forum for debate, says Professor Scott.
He says the only disappointment he could see so far in the recommendations was that they do not address the need for
education, for the public but especially teachers teaching in this area.
“I believe to have critical debate on the issue we need to resource high school teachers and educate the public better
than we have.”
Molecular biologist Professor Paula Jameson says the loosening of regulations governing low risk research will hopefully
put us on level footing with Australia and allow us to be more competitive at the low risk end of research.
“I’m pleased to see they propose to allow field trials to go ahead under controlled conditions. You can’t see how a
plant will react to UV, wind, rain or airborne pathogens in a glasshouse. And we really do have to start looking at the
interaction between what is happening in the soil and the environment with these organisms – which has been ignored
Professor Jameson also welcomed the recommendation to allow field trails and controlled release on a commercial scale
and a strategy to contain genetically engineered crops by allowing the use of sterility genes.