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GE-Free New Zealand

in food and environment (RAGE Inc.)


Greens Called to Reinstate Toi Te Taiao -The Bioethics Council


The Green Party are being called on to support a new Toi Te Taiao with an expanded role to include other emerging technologies; Synthetic Biology, Artificial Intelligence, Nano-technology and Geo-engineering.

In an open letter to Green Party members and MPs, former Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons is acknowledged for her work in policy development that ensures robust regulation of Genetic Engineering in Aotearoa. [1]

Jeanette advocated for The Royal Commission on Genetic Modification which led to Toi Te Taiao - The Bioethics Council being established.

Toi Te Taiao was tasked with helping Aotearoa navigate the ethical issues of Genetic Engineering, including the use of human genes, but their work ended when Toi Te Taiao was abolished. [2]

Today a new Technology Ethics Council is needed to navigate the challenges of innovation including 'easy, cheap' Gene Editing, Synthetic Biology, Nanotechnology, Artificial Intelligence and Geo-Engineering.

“These require deep and ongoing engagement of the public. The abolition of Toi Te Taiao deprived us of a source of collective wisdom and authentic engagement with tangata whenua and civil society”, said Jon Carapiet. spokesman for GE-Free NZ.

Another recommendation of The Royal Commission on Genetic Modification was that farm animals should not be Genetically Engineered as 'bioreactors' for bulk production of pharmaceuticals. But the recent call by the Productivity Commission for deregulation opens up the potential for unacceptable cruelty to animals from GE already seen in AgResearch experiments. [3]

“When Jeanette started her work, it was in the knowledge that commercial interests were already keen to commercialise these powerful emerging technologies,” said Jon Carapiet.

“To maintain public trust an independent body, such as Toi Te Taiao, is needed to balance the voices of vested interests in both industry and academia.”

“Strict liability is also needed to reign in the appetite for risk that is prevalent in the biotechnology and innovation sectors, driven by Intellectual Property not the public interest.”

As technologies challenge the integrity of Natural systems and humanity itself a Technology Ethics Council is needed to guide how society manages risk while navigating opportunities and regulation in the public interest.

Medical use of GE in humans show benefits and there is a review of settings for regulation in biomedicine. But the prospect of human Genetic Engineering also brings the threat of Eugenics to humanity, including to the LGBTQIA+ rainbow and disability communities, which must be addressed.

These are complex and ongoing issues to navigate. Having an independent and ethical compass to guide us is vital.

[1] Open Letter to the Green Party – The Bioethics Council
[2] https://pep.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/human-genes.pdf

[3] https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/mutant-cows-die-in-gm-trial/UNAM73ED3VXZJFX7MXU7VYAZ74/

Jon Carapiet –Spokesperson 021 050 7681
Claire Bleakley – President 027 348 6731