Herald on GE

The Herald editorial:

Genetic engineering of food crops appears to have largely disappeared from public concern since the Environmental Risk Management Authority was set up a decade ago.

It is hard to know whether the disappearance of the issue is because the ERMA has prevented much experimentation in this country, or because crops engineered elsewhere have been in the food chain for just as long and the world’s general health does not seem to have suffered.

Both explanations are true, according to American experts here for a biotechnology conference this week. One of them, a vice-president of Dupont Agricultural Biotechnology and an adviser to the State Department, warned that New Zealand was slipping behind advances in food production and risked being left with outdated crops. …

The regulations governing biotechnology trials in this country appear to have stifled field experiments almost entirely for the past 10 years. The Treasury has expressed concern that agricultural innovation is inhibited and the Environment Minister, Amy Adams, is taking a closer look at the rules. It is high time they were reviewed.

A decade ago, the ERMA regime made economic sense. Genetic engineering was receiving international criticism and this country listened to warnings that its reputation as a “clean green” food producer could suffer unless it adopted a restrictive regime. Now has faded from most of the world’s consciousness, “clean green” does not face the same risk. It is time to assess whether the country’s agricultural science is suffering. 

A review is timely.

People are often susceptible to exaggerated fears of a new technology. Cellphone towers were widely feared. Older people will remember warnings about television when it first arrived. When we travel we probably eat modified rice and wheat products without giving it a thought.

Almost every new technology is feared by some initially.

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