Environment Minister sticks to his position on genetic engineering and the precautionary approach

Environment Minister David Parker has reiterated his belief in the precautionary approach being applied to  genetic engineering.

National’s Dr Parmjeet Parmar asked in Parliament if he stood by his statement about regulation of genetic engineering, “I think that the precautionary approach hasn’t done us any harm so far, either economically or environmentally”; if so, why?

Mr Parker said yes, “because it has benefited New Zealand, which explains why GM regulation did not substantially change over the last nine years of the previous Government”.

Hansard records the rest of the exchange:

Dr Parmjeet Parmar: Does he believe the Ministry for the Environment is incorrect to have concluded that New Zealand’s regulatory framework for genetic modification, under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, is increasingly difficult to enforce, and may be limiting the country’s competitiveness?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No.

Dr Parmjeet Parmar: Has he asked for any further advice on the economic or environmental impact of continuing his precautionary approach in light of his colleague the Hon James Shaw’s willingness to take a fresh look at the genetic engineering regulations in New Zealand?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I don’t understand that the Hon James Shaw was proposing to abandon a precautionary approach in respect of GM. I did say to the Environment Committee last month that there is a rising issue as to whether or not some new genetically modified organism (GMO) techniques are distinguishable from other non-GMO changes. That issue is not quite upon us but may arise in the future, and the Prime Minister’s chief science officer is bringing forward some advice in respect of that issue.

Dr Parmjeet Parmar: Does he believe organisms created using gene editing technology present greater risk than naturally occurring organisms?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I’m not satisfied that that is yet sufficiently clear to allow those techniques to be unregulated.

Dr Parmjeet Parmar: Does he agree with the Ministry for the Environment’s advice that failing to update our legislation may result in organisms being regulated at a level not proportionate to the risk they pose and New Zealand missing out on the benefits they could provide, such as advancing success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pests?

Hon DAVID PARKER: If there was a miracle cure for climate change brought about by a GM crop, I’m sure that any Government would consider it. At the moment, it could be considered under the existing regulatory framework.

Source:  Hansard

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