Biotechnology Council Membership Announced

  • Nick Smith
Research, Science and Technology

Acting Minister of Research, Science and Technology, Dr Nick Smith, today announced the membership of the Independent Biotechnology Advisory Council (IBAC) saying the public and Government would benefit from the very high calibre of people that had made themselves available.

"Biotechnology is a very important issue for New Zealand. Our food and fibre industries make up over 50 % of our exports and must be able to advance. We are also a nation that prides itself on environmental excellence. IBAC will help ensure the Government and public are well advised on this new technology."

Dr Smith said the announcement of IBAC had been brought forward in response to an Alliance Private Members Bill which would be extremely damaging to New Zealand's health, environmental and primary industry research programmes.

"The Government is serious about ensuring a well informed and open debate about genetic engineering and would urge other parliamentary parties to avoid making New Zealand a scientific backwater. The integrity and balance of the Council's membership should reassure the public that safety is the number one priority of the Government."

"We've appointed 10 members drawn from a wide range of disciplines who will look at a range of biotechnology issues, including genetic engineering. It's an area where we must tread very carefully, always mindful of any risks to ourselves and our environment," he said.

IBAC will be convened by Professor Peter Gluckman, an accomplished paediatric biomedical researcher, and Judge Mick Brown, Mrs Anne Dickinson, Professor Donald Evans, Dr Stephen Goldson, Professor Paula Jameson, Mr Graham Robertson, Mr Stephen Tindall, Associate Professor Ingrid Winship and Dr Janice Wright.

"We welcome all members and the work they will do in informing the public of biotechnology issues and also give us advise on their findings," said Dr Smith.

"Biotechnology is an area where we are already making large investments through publicly funded research and an area that presents huge opportunities for new and improved products. But we recognise it's an area we must tread very carefully," he said.

IBAC will not work in isolation and will be required to consult with the public, departments, agencies and organisations involved in biotechnology. Activities in each area could include public forums, discussion documents and in-depth investigations by working groups.