Conservation Minister is said to be stifling innovation and conservation initiatives

The Life Sciences Network is calling on the Minister of Conservation to lift her ban on research into genetic alternatives to 1080.

While 1080 is currently our most valuable tool in the fight against predators, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has called for innovation in the development of alternatives to 1080 including genetic technologies, the network says.

But according to an internal letter obtained by the network, Conservation Minister and Green Party MP Eugenie Sage has used her ministerial powers to forbid Predator Free 2050 from undertaking any research which could lead to the use of genetic modification or gene editing.

The letter of direction to Predator Free 2050 says, inter alia, that its primary tasks are to:

• Invest in breakthrough science research, excluding research into genetically modified organisms and technologies such as CRISP-A[sic] or gene editing; and

• Raise funds for co-investment by other (non-government) parties, in landscape scale projects and breakthrough science, excluding any science involving genetic modification.

Life Sciences Network chairman and former president of Federated Farmers, Dr William Rolleston, suggests that the incorrect use of a key and commonly used scientific term (CRISPR) indicates that the ban on genetic technologies was a last minute personal inclusion by the minister herself.

Banning GM research is contrary to government policy, which allows its use in the laboratory but requires Environmental Protection Authority evaluation and approval as well as public consultation before any GMO release.

“The minister has used the excuse that there is no public mandate for the use of genetic technologies however I believe this is disingenuous as, while historic surveys have indicated a cautious public view on the issue of GMO release, 76% supported the government lifting its moratorium on GM in 2003.” he said.

“Research into genetic technologies to eliminate our predators will provide insights and tools which may not necessarily require the release of GMOs. However, if our scientists are not able to even enquire we will be trying to understand and evaluate the risks and benefits of GM predator control with one arm tied behind our back. Our predator situation is unique, and our environment, particularly our taonga species, risk remaining under stress and in decline for longer than is necessary because of this call by the minister.

“Any imminent release of a GMO for predator control is at least several parliamentary terms away. The minister is burning the books before they have even been written and compromising the choices of future governments.”

The rational approach would be for the minister to drop her ban on genetic research within the confines of the laboratory and allow the regulatory system, including public consultation, to determine if the resulting tools have sufficient benefit and safeguards. Dr Rolleston said.

Source: Life Sciences Network

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog

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