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Govt funding thorough research into GM impacts

The Government is now funding over $7 million of research into the impacts of genetically modified organisms and biotechnology, as part of its commitment to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification.

A review by the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology has examined the Government's response to the Royal Commission’s call for more publicly funded research into the social and environmental impacts of genetically modified (GM) organisms.

Science Minister Pete Hodgson said the Government’s research was adding to the knowledge required to make good decisions about the use of GM organisms in New Zealand.

"This research is investigating some of the general environmental and social issues related to GM, such as understanding the impacts of horizontal or vertical gene transfer and public perceptions of risk associated with biotechnology. It is also about developing research approaches that work in New Zealand’s unique environment," Mr Hodgson said.

Anybody wishing to release a genetically modified organism in New Zealand will still have to supply specific information about its possible impacts to the Environmental Risk Management Authority.

"The Royal Commission said New Zealand should proceed carefully with GM. This research is helping us ensure we get the right balance between moving forward and weighing up the risks and benefits," said Mr Hodgson.

Two international experts who contributed to the review concluded that New Zealand has comprehensive research under way into environmental and social impacts. They noted that New Zealand’s investment in this area is consistent with that in many other countries and significantly higher than in some, such as Australia.

In addition to the $7 million a year being spent on research into the social and environmental impacts of GM organisms, research supporting the organics sector has increased by about $1 million a year to a total of $3 million a year. This follows the Royal Commission's recommendation for further research supporting organics and other sustainable farming systems.

The review recommended a number of actions for government agencies to ensure the research being undertaken would inform their decisions.

The review report is available on www.morst.govt.nz




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