Government doing no work on reforming out of date law on genetic technologies

The Environment Minister has admitted the Government is doing no work on reforming the law around genetic technologies.

Newshub previously revealed officials warned in 2018 New Zealand will fall behind the rest of the world in the area. Advice said there could be lost opportunities including economic developments, medical treatments and combating the likes of kauri dieback and myrtle rust.

"...the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO) is becoming outdated in light of developments," the advice to Environment Minister David Parker said.

"We believe a broad public conversation is required to ascertain New Zealanders' views on the developments."

When Newshub originally requested an interview with the Environment Minister on the topic it was declined.

Parker appeared in front of the Environment Select Committee and was challenged on whether or not the regulatory framework is still appropriate.

"There is no work being done currently to review the legislation which governs GMOs (genetically modified organisms). The HSNO has no legislation. There is an issue that's coming at New Zealand which is whether some of the new GMO techniques are properly catered for in the HSNO legislation which was drafted before new techniques were developed.

"There are mixed views in society as to whether those new techniques do have an effect to modify the genome of an existing organism and we are seeking advice on those issues before we move forward including from the Chief Science Officer", Parker said.

National's Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson referenced the advice from the Ministry for the Environment which suggested the current law may be limiting New Zealand's competitiveness on the world stage.

"I've seen no evidence that there's been any effect on New Zealand's competitiveness", Parker said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made clear at her post-Cabinet press conference earlier this week the Government's position hasn't changed on the controversial area.

"It hasn't changed from the position we have at present. There's a very robust process because New Zealanders expressed some time ago concerns around GMO being carefully and cautiously managed with a precautionary approach."

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage was also challenged on the topic in select committee following concerns raised by National's spokesperson Sarah Dowie about the sustainability of 1080 being used as pest control and the dangers to DOC staff.

In Budget 2019, $10.7m over the next four years will go towards security at DOC offices and ensure workers and volunteers are safe. Dowie said the Government isn't exhausting all of its options in the tool box for predator control.

Newshub previously revealed Sage penned a letter of expectation to Predator Free 2050 Limited, explicitly telling the company not to invest in research into genetic engineering technology.

That's despite official advice from the Department of Conservation suggesting it could be used to help rid New Zealand of predators.

Newshub also revealed DoC has significantly increased its spending on finding alternatives to 1080. Since 2011, the trend in spending has jumped from $1.06 million a year to $3.55 million planned spend in 2018/19.