EPA decision on GMO welcomed

  • Nick Smith

The Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) decision to approve the release of a genetically modified organism (GMO), Pexa-Vec, for a clinical trial for the treatment of a type of liver cancer has been welcomed today by Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith. 

“New Zealand has very cautious laws in respect of genetically modified organisms but we need to be open to biotechnologies that offer real benefits. Liver cancer is a deadly disease and we need to support the development of innovative medical technologies that have the potential to save hundreds of lives. The Phase 3 clinical trial of Pexa-Vec is subject to tight controls that ensure the protection of the public and the environment. The next step for this trial is approval by Medsafe,” Dr Smith says. 

“The significance of this decision is that it is the first GMO approved as a human medicine since the Act was passed in 1996. The only other GMOs approved for release were two equine vaccines in 2008 but these were subsequently not used. 

“There are some who would prefer New Zealand was GM-free. The Government’s view is that a blanket ban on such technologies would deprive New Zealanders of biotechnologies like those for this potential liver cancer treatment. The Government has confidence in the regulatory system that has these decisions being made on sound scientific grounds. 

“New Zealand is a country with strong environmental credentials but we are also a nation which has a rich scientific heritage. We should embrace new technologies like GM where there are clear benefits and where any risks to the environment can be effectively managed.”