According to Dr Zahra Champion, executive director of BiotechNZ, the time has come for New Zealand to finally accept genetic modification (GM) products in a world of climate change and global food shortages.
Recently, there has been a change in attitude towards GM and new-age technologies in the world, leaving New Zealand and its anti-GM stance behind.
A groundbreaking investigation by the Productivity Commission has revealed that it is time for a full regulatory review of genetically modified organisms and technologies.
The report found that there have been significant advances in GM and gene-editing techniques in recent years.
However, the New Zealand government is proceeding too slowly concerning GM, especially in light of climate change.
“They want to talk about New Zealand’s use of GM tech, but we need action, or we will be left far behind,” said Dr Champion.
“Future generations will not be interested in staying in Aotearoa [New Zealand] if we don’t use cutting edge technologies. We will see more brain drain, and New Zealand will miss out on the fourth industrial revolution.”
Champion believes biotechnology can be utilised to drive significant change throughout the nation. With a surge in demand for plant-based food and stem cell meat, the country needs to begin adapting old regulations to employ new technologies.
Globally, there have been substantial advances in GM since the government laid down laws against GM and GM technology importation.
GM can now promote productivity and economic health, help with biosecurity risks and adjust to climate change risks. Gene-editing technology can assist with drought tolerance, disease resistance, fruit ripening and minimising greenhouse gas emissions.
New Zealand has long prided itself in its reputation for safe food, but at the moment, GM technology is restricted to research labs. According to Champion, this can be frustrating for some businesses.
“Some companies are incredible, and they could make a bigger difference if they were allowed to use gene editing.”
The international biotechnology market is forecasted to grow to $US729 billion by 2025. New Zealand is ranked fourth worldwide for innovation potential in biotechnology.
Under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, all use of GM techniques recquires approval, and no GM products manufactured in New Zealand are commercially available.