The Herald reports:
New Zealand’s strict rules on genetic modification are putting the country at a competitive disadvantage, the head of Treasury says.
In a speech at Fieldays in Hamilton last week, Treasury chief executive Gabriel Makhlouf said the current regulatory system denied New Zealanders the choice over whether they wanted new technologies – both genetically modified and non-genetically modified.
“Meanwhile, our international competitors do have this option,” he said.
Mr Makhlouf cited the example of high-yielding eucalyptus trees which have been approved for cultivation in Brazil. Using this variety, Brazilian growers could get a 15 per cent increase in wood for the same area, processors could get a 20 per cent reduction in the cost of wood production, and 12 per cent more carbon emissions were stored per hectare.
He said high-yielding wood was at the core of New Zealand’s pulp and paper industry.
“However our current regime for regulating new organisms is highly restrictive in practice, which means we do not have the flexibility to choose whether this is something we would want in New Zealand.
Mr Makhlouf said the regime also denied New Zealanders the choice to adopt new plants and species that offered huge advantages, such as drought-resistant rye grass.
Good to see Treasury pushing this issue for debate. I believe the science is very clear that there are huge benefits from genetic modification and minimal risks. We should be embracing the technology more.