Research into plant genetic engineering has been on-going in excess
of twenty years and it is now too late to "return the
genie to the bottle".
In addition to the obvious genetic modification techniques, genetic
engineering research enables scientists and
researchers to gather information about genes without modifying them, a very valuable, non-intrusive research tool.
Ownership of plants and genes raises many questions and issues, in particular,
ethical considerations. Rather than
drafting new legislation the New Zealand model should look at using and/or modifying existing patent legislation.
The fact that Aotearoa/New Zealand has taken a conservative approach
to the implementation of plant biotechnology is to be
applauded and augurs well for the future. We should continue to monitor and observe overseas developments and be willing
to learn, adopt and/or adapt as appropriate.
There is a deficiency in public awareness and education with regard
to the technology and its effects, that needs to be
addressed. The whole population has the right to be informed.
It is impossible to provide cast-iron guarantees that this technology will not have an adverse effect on the
environment. We believe the current voluntary codes and the comprehensive HSNO legislation, when operational, will provide
adequate safeguards, if enforced.
We consider that the effects of plant biotechnology on plant biodiversity
will be no more damaging than those caused by
natural cross-breeding and traditional breeding techniques.
We recognise that the comparability of Maori values and beliefs with
plant biotechnology presents special challenges
which are already being considered within the structure of the Treaty of Waitangi.
We have to accept plant biotechnology is a reality and it is better
that it be conducted in an open environment where
checks and controls can be put in place and the process open to public scrutiny.