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How is biotechnology regulated and governed in New Zealand? (V0194)

The New Zealand Government has been proactive in developing a framework controlling what is and is not allowed in biotechnology research. Representatives from the biotechnology industry explain.

This clip was developed in conjunction with NZBio.

Transcript

Brian Ward (NZ Bio): Biotechnology is very strictly regulated. It’s regulated both in terms of the ethical side, but also in terms of compliance - in terms of environmental and laboratory practices. So biotechnology does not happen without some very stringent parameters around it.

George Slim (Ministry of Research, Science & Technology): In 2003, the Government put out a Biotechnology Strategy which has three areas; one of which is growing the sector, one of which is engaging the public, and the other one is regulation. So that provides robust safeguards whilst still allowing innovation. And that’s been the core of the development of the regulation around biotech since then. So we had the existing Medicines Act and so forth, which regulated medicines; and for animal remedies. But we brought in a whole raft of new regulations specifically around biotech, which is really to protect the environment, to protect New Zealand’s biosecurity, to give the public reassurance that nothing dangerous is being done by the research or the business community.

Joanna Kirman (Malaghan Institute): There are huge amounts of regulations that we have to stick to and follow, and a lot of legislation that New Zealand has implemented so that dangerous or ethically dodgy things don’t actually go on in New Zealand. And they do get policed very heavily as well. We have people coming through looking at the laboratory, and every new thing that we bring into the country also has to pass through strict regulations as well.

George Slim (Ministry of Research, Science & Technology): We don’t legislate around specific technologies. We legislate around specific risks, and then we have committees and other regulatory bodies that can overlook and see what is happening. So you take things to a panel like ERMA for instance, the regulatory authority. They come to a decision based on the risk rather than the particular technology. So as biotechnology changes, which of course it does very rapidly, then the legislation doesn’t need to be kept up-to-date constantly.

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