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9-Misc: A Biotechnology Strategy for New Zealand

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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  A Biotechnology Strategy for New Zealand
SOURCE: Ministry of Research, Science and Technology, New Zealand
        Media Statement,
DATE:   May 25, 2003

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A Biotechnology Strategy for New Zealand

A vision and direction for the development of biotechnology in New
Zealand is set out in the Government's Biotechnology Strategy, released
today [Monday 26 May].

"This strategy is about developing the biotechnology sector with care,"
says Minister of Research, Science and Technology Pete Hodgson.

"Development with care means the Government wants New Zealand to reap the
benefits of biotechnology in a responsible and sustainable way. To
achieve that we need engagement and understanding between the
biotechnology sector and the community, along with robust regulation that
safeguards people and the environment.

"Biotechnology is an industry in itself, but it is much more that that.
It generates knowledge, skills and technology that can contribute in
numerous ways to achieving our economic, social and environmental aspirations.

"Wrestling with the opportunities and challenges presented by a fast-
moving and complex sector is not easy, but standing still is not an
option. That's why the strategy calls for action in three areas -- growth,
community engagement and effective regulation."

To promote growth in biotechnology the strategy draws on the work of the
Biotechnology Taskforce, set up under the Government's Growth and
Innovation Framework. The Taskforce has highlighted important factors
including a strong knowledge, skill and research base, investment and
infrastructure focused on New Zealand's strengths and strong
international research links.

"Constructive community engagement and public confidence in effective
regulation will underpin growth in biotechnology," Mr Hodgson said. "This
strategy represents a commitment by the Government to work with
communities, researchers and industry so New Zealanders can benefit from
developing and applying our world-class biological knowledge, skills and

The strategy is available at

Contact: Graeme Speden, press secretary, 04 471 9707 / 021 270 9055 


Biotechnology Strategy

Released 26 May 2003

Questions and answers

What is biotechnology - isn't it just another name for genetic engineering?

Biotechnology is a broad term for technologies that use knowledge of
living things. They can cover anything from fermentation for making beer
and cheese, to plant and animal breeding techniques, to DNA
fingerprinting. "Modern Biotechnology" is a term used to refer to
research-based techniques in use today. Genetic modification is just one
of these techniques.  Other aspects of biotechnology include:
- diagnostic tests for human, animal and plant diseases
- new drug and vaccine development
- identification of rare strains of animals and plants 
- biological conversion of waste into energy.

Why is biotechnology important for New Zealand?

The New Zealand economy is biologically based. We have used our
biological knowledge to add value to sheep, milk, kiwifruit, pine trees
etc. Advances in biotechnology now give New Zealand opportunities to
build on these strengths and develop new or improved products in these
areas. It also offers chances to open up new fields in environmental
management, such as improving water quality and reducing industrial
waste, and provides innovative ways for developing new medicines. 

New biological knowledge means worldwide expansion of new opportunities.
If New Zealand is to hold a competitive edge we need to keep up with
developments and use our resources and biotechnology smartly.

Who's involved in developing biotechnology in New Zealand?

Many different people are involved in developing and using biotechnology
in New Zealand. Most of New Zealand's biotechnology knowledge comes from
universities, Crown Research Institutes and a few private institutes,
including research arms of organisations such as Fonterra. Many sectors
in New Zealand are involved in applying biotechnology. These include
agriculture, horticulture, food and beverage, forestry, health,
cosmetics, environment management, conservation, industrial manufacturing
and the police.

What are the commercial/economic opportunities arising from biotechnology?  

New Zealand has a strong base in biotechnology that stems from its unique
access to and overlap with biomedical and primary sector research. 
Independent analysis by overseas evaluators (The Channel Group) has
identified nine important sectors which offer great potential for further
development.  These include
- agricultural biotechnology 
- biopharmaceuticals
- biomanufacturing
- marine therapeutics
- transgenic animals 
- bioactives
- clinical trials and research
- nutraceuticals
- industrial and environmental biotechnology

Why do we need a biotechnology strategy? Didn't the Royal Commission on
Genetic Modification sort all this stuff out?

The Royal Commission on Genetic Modification acknowledged that the 21st
century has been dubbed the "Biotech century" and recommended developing
a biotechnology strategy for New Zealand to "ensure that New Zealand kept
abreast of developments in biotechnology, .... while preserving essential
social, cultural and environmental values."  The Growth and Innovation
Framework (GIF) announced by the Government in February 2002 identified
biotechnology as one of three sectors that are significant for New
Zealand's economic future. The Biotechnology Strategy is the Government's
view of what needs to be done to encourage responsible use of biotechnology.

How does the work of the Biotechnology Sector Taskforce relate to the

The strategy has been informed by the deliberations of the Biotechnology
Taskforce (as well as submissions from the public). The strategy is
consistent with and broadly supports the directions proposed by the
Taskforce for promoting commercial growth of the sector.

Who will have responsibility for ensuring the strategy is implemented?

The Ministry of Research, Science and Technology will co-ordinate the
implementation of the Biotechnology Strategy for the Government. While a
range of different agencies (including MAF, MoH, INZ, and MfE) will be
responsible for implementing the strategy directions, MoRST will continue
to play a key role in co-ordinating and monitoring the strategy.

How will the strategy affect New Zealand's 'clean green' image?

The strategy will foster the development of responsible, smart
applications of biotechnology. There are opportunities to enhance New
Zealand's 'clean green' image, for example through biotechnology
applications for:
- biosecurity and pest control
- environment and waste management
- conservation of rare and indigenous strains of plants and animals. 

How will the Biotechnology Strategy affect the level of Government
funding for biotechnology research?

The strategy is not designed to specifically set funding levels for
Government research. It looks at the broader issues - such as links
between the community and the biotechnology sector, regulation and
growing the sector. Government funding for biotechnology, along with
other areas of research, science and technology has increased over the
past two years due to the Government's recognition of the importance of
research, science and technology for New Zealand. 

Who was involved in writing the strategy?

The Ministry of Research, Science and Technology have led the strategy
development process, with oversight from a steering group of senior
officials from key agencies. The strategy has been widely consulted on,
including focus groups and submissions on a public discussion document.

What will the strategy achieve/change in real terms? (or to put it
another way - what would happen if we didn't have a strategy?)

The strategy will provide a set of goals and actions to support growing
our biotechnology sector. This growth will be underpinned by strengthened
links between the sector and the broader community, as well as a
regulatory system that encourages innovation while robustly safeguarding
health and the environment.

Without a strategy that links together the economic, social and
environmental aspects of biotechnology, we risk our ability to build and
sustain a vibrant biotechnology sector that can benefit New Zealanders. 

How is this strategy different from the biotechnology strategies other
countries are developing?

The biotechnology strategies of many countries, including Canada,
Australia and Singapore are strongly focused on growing their
biotechnology sectors. They each place different emphasis on the factors
needed to achieve growth. New Zealand wants sustainable growth of the
sector. The New Zealand strategy stresses the importance of underpinning
growth with strengthened links between the community and the
biotechnology sector and an effective regulatory system.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
Kleine Wiese 6
D - 38116 Braunschweig

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