Get Updates

New Zealand has a proud history of innovators and pioneering entrepreneurs who have turned ideas into world-beating businesses.

It is vital that as a country we continue to nurture our best and brightest and give them every opportunity to pursue their dreams here. We need to make sure our settings are right and that our decisions are based on the latest science and technology.

But there's evidence we have slipped behind.

Two crown research institutes have been forced to test their latest innovations overseas because New Zealand's biotechnology rules make it too hard to realise their potential here.

Fonterra recently invested in US-based Motif Ingredients, which aims to develop new plant and animal-based proteins, including research that would be highly restricted, if not impossible, in New Zealand.

Biotechnology has advanced so fast that, as the Prime Minister's chief science adviser, Juliet Gerrard, says the regulatory framework "is not coping well with the introduction of new technologies". The former chief scientist, Sir Peter Gluckman, held a similar view.

There is no sign Gerrard is being listened to because the Government doesn't plan to update the rules, even though they are out of date.

National believes the Government should listen to our chief scientists.

In 2001 the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification said New Zealand couldn't afford to turn its back on biotechnology and recommended we make "cautious progress". To date there hasn't been a single application for commercial release of genetically modified material approved under our legislation.

The regulatory hoops designed to keep us safe 20 years ago are now stifling innovation.

New Zealand is saddled with completely unsuitable law for regulating new science and emerging technologies. Scientists doing this innovative work are also battling opposition to biotechnology at a budgetary level of Government.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage specifically excluded gene editing from funding for research related to the Predator Free 2050 goal, meaning she ruled out some of our most promising options. The Government has resisted updating the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO) to reflect advances in science.

National says it is worth having a fresh conversation because science and technology offer the best prospects for responding to the biggest threats faced by humans and our planet.

AgResearch's HME ryegrass is expected to reduce farm methane and nitrous oxide emissions and nitrogen leaching while improving productivity, but the New Zealand-funded, five-year trial to test those claims is being done in the United States. It was too difficult to conduct the trials here.

The field of biotechnology has expanded so far it now includes procedures that mimic the rules of natural selection that plant and animal breeders have used for centuries. Science can't tell them apart.

As with everything in life, the risks must be managed appropriately. That's why we have rules covering everything from playground equipment to weed sprays.

National supports a risk-based regulatory regime that enables research to be conducted here, unlocking the benefits of future technologies while ensuring that it's used safely for both humans and the environment.

We need to unpack our discussion about biotechnology while ensuring nothing damages our Pure NZ brand. We owe it to ourselves to have an honest public debate.

Share this post