GENET archive


9-Misc: GE consultation with Maori only 'tokenism'

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

TITLE:  GE consultation with Maori only 'tokenism'
SOURCE: The New Zealand Herald, by Simon Collins
DATE:   15 Sep 2004 

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GE consultation with Maori only 'tokenism'

A Maori researcher has rebelled against "tokenism" in consultation with
Maori over the ethics of putting human genes into other animals and plants.

Dr Paul Reynolds, a postdoctoral fellow at the Auckland University-based
institute Nga Pae o te Maramatanga, said the Government-appointed
Bioethics Council heard more than 220 people at hui, but then ignored
their concerns when it gave a green light last month to injecting human
genes into other species.

"Their consultations and dialogue sessions with the public and with Maori
are just ways of managing dissent," he said.

"It's, 'We'll listen to you, we'll tick the box and say we have listened
to the public, then we'll marginalise your view and we won't listen to
you at all in the report which we write."'

Dr Reynolds, born in Taumarunui of Ngati Tuwharetoa and Ngapuhi descent,
wrote his doctoral thesis at Vancouver's Simon Fraser University on Maori
views of genetic modification (GM).

"It's part of a larger international struggle about knowledge -
traditional knowledge and intellectual property ownership," he said.

"This is one of several reports that consults Maori, but then ignores
what they have to say, which I think is wrong. It's dishonest."

Notes from the 13 hui showed overwhelming opposition to putting human
genes into other organisms.

Participants at the first hui, in Whangarei, said transferring genes
interfered with the whakapapa (ancestry) that linked people - not people
and animals.

The notes record some voices in support of GM technology at four hui - on
Auckland's North Shore and in New Plymouth, Otaki and Christchurch.

Dr Reynolds noted that three Maori members of the Bioethics Council - Dr
Gary Hook, Dr Cherryl Smith and founding chairman Sir Paul Reeves -
resigned just before the human genes report came out.

"It appears that Maori concerns have now become tokenism," he said.

But all three former council members told the Herald they resigned
because of work pressures, not because they disagreed with the human
genes report.

Sir Paul said he endorsed the report, Dr Hook "had no disagreements" with
it, and Dr Smith did not want to comment on the report.

The sole remaining Maori member of the working party that drafted the
report, Auckland University doctoral student Waiora Port, said she "did
not have time to get on to it".

"We as Maori are all overcommitted in all sorts of fields. I have my own
research," she said.

The council's kaumatua, Dr Hirini Moko Mead, said he had been preoccupied
by his Ngati Awa tribe's Treaty of Waitangi settlement and had not yet
read the final report, but said: "We had a very good process".

Council executive officer John Pennington said there was a real need "to
engage Maori in what these technologies mean for tikanga [Maori ways of
doing things] and whakapapa".

"Like it or not, these technologies are coming. Somehow or other Maoridom
has to get a grip on them, just as they have with other technologies," he

The Government has appointed two new Maori members of the council, Massey
University health researcher Dr Chris Cunningham and Victoria University
pro-vice-chancellor Piri Sciascia.

Mr Pennington said it was looking for another Maori woman to replace Dr

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Bioethics Council Report Whitewashes Maori Concern
SOURCE: The National Institute of Research Excellence for Maori Development
        and Advancement, New Zealand, by Paul Reynolds
DATE:   6 Sep 2004 

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Bioethics Council Report Whitewashes Maori Concern

(Note: This release was originally posted under a BioEthics Council
byline, Scoop apologises for this error.)

The 'Human Genes In Other Organisms Report' released by the Bioethics
Council ''reads more like an advertisement for the biotechnology industry
and mad scientists'' say Maori researchers. The release of the report,
widely touted to canvas the cultural, ethical and spiritual concerns of
New Zealanders, comes down heavily in favour of placing human genes and
their replicas into other species. Of particular concern has been the
lack of awareness of the body of scientific research and publications
that question the merit and safety of transgenic research and
international concerns with biosafety.

"Maori are deeply concerned about the use of human genes and the
implications of using human genes in other species but this is given
scant mention in the Bioethics Council report. The Council presents a
view that the public is happy with the fact that human genes are being
placed into other species if it is potentially beneficial for human
health. However, that has not been our experience in terms of research
with Maori communities in regard to issues of genetic engineering. There
is a significant body of evidence that shows Maori concerns over the
development of the technologies, what constitutes safe medical research
and where health funding should be allocated." says Glenis Philip-
Barbara, a Ngati Porou researcher.

Ms Philip-Barbara is one of a number of Maori researchers who have
undertaken research in Maori communities on genetic engineering. More
recently Dr Paul Reynolds, whose PhD research examines the biotechnology
industry in New Zealand, says that there has been a consistency of
opposition by Maori to the developments of the technologies. "From 1998
until 2003, Maori have spoken to the Royal Commission, submission
processes, researchers, Ministry consultations, numerous forum including
the Bioethics Council. The dialogue process that the Council undertook
has failed to reflect what Maori said to them. They have whitewashed
their concerns. In Maori assessments, a number of factors are being
weighed up including whanau and environmental wellbeing, cultural
factors, safety of experimentation, value for money spent,
accountability, access, usage of public funds". Both Ms Philip-Barbara
and Dr Reynolds, attended Council dialogue sessions, and spoke to others
who attended meetings, said that "People who attended were very clear
about their views and it was not in support of human genes being put into
other species because of their views about the sanctity of whakapapa". Ms
Philip-Barbara says that "the Gisborne participation was strong and clear
in its views but there is zero in the Report that adequately reflects
what Maori participants have said. Once again it seems we have been

Talking about his recent Ph.D research which was completed in Canada, Dr
Reynolds says his research showed that "significant amounts of taxpayer
funding is being channelled into areas that manage the perception of the
public to biotechnologies in New Zealand. Managing perception is clearly
what the Council seems to be about." This he states raises a critical
issue in regards to the representation of Maori views on biotechnology.
"A part of managing perception seems to be the marginalisation of Maori
views in the report. Supposed dialogue and consultation has been
extremely useful as part of a range of ways of managing public
perceptions. However these processes have been extremely limited and
still fail to engage the critical questions about whether the science has
long term risks and if in fact there are ever going to be any medical
cures. The jury is still out on both these questions, but the council is
supporting the continuance of a science that remains unpredictable and
therefore potentially unsafe for future generations." Further more Dr
Reynolds states that the support for the biotechnology industry is based
more on economic gain than it is about health. "Why are we spending a
fortune on this? Who benefits? Currently there is huge funding being
allocated into an arena that is totally experimental with no specific
outcomes for health or wellbeing of people. So far the need for all this
research is based on unfounded assumptions about health hearsay and is
sucking up a significant allocation of research funds across a number of
areas, including research and development, and health funds, not to
mention the funding spent on the activity of dialogue such as that
undertaken by the Council."

Conflict of interest has also been ignored in the process. What is
interesting to note is that human genes have already been put into cows
in research undertaken by Crown entity, AgResearch, at Waikato. The 1998
transgenic cow application, which set a precedent for New Zealand, was
approved in 2002 by a special ERMA committee chaired by Jill White. "Jill
White is now the current Chair of the Bioethics Council so the public
will need to ask why a number of Maori seem to be being attacked for
conflicts of interest in the public arena but these conflicts seem to be
overlooked" say Dr Reynolds. While the Council had a significant Maori
membership earlier this year, including Sir Paul Reeves, Dr Gary Hook, Dr
Cherryl Smith this has changed and it appears that Maori concerns have
now become tokenism.

- Dr Paul Reynolds
Postdoctoral Fellow
Nga Pae o te Maramatanga
The National Institute of Research Excellence for Maori Development and
Hosted by The University of Auckland


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