Prepared by Terri Dunahay, August 2010
with funding from the sponsors of the Ian Axford (New Zealand) Fellowships in Public Policy
Terri Dunahay is the Plant Health Trade Director, Canada at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Riverdale, Maryland. Terri has worked in International Policy in the Biotechnology Regulatory Services program of the USDA since 2002. Prior to joining USDA, Terri worked for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, developing methods to engineer algae to produce biofuels. Terri has a BA in aquatic biology from UC Santa Barbara and a PhD in cell and molecular biology from the University of Colorado.
During Terri’s Ian Axford Fellowship exchange to New Zealand she was based at the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology in Wellington, where she researched issues that would affect a decision in New Zealand on whether or not to commercialise genetically modified pasture grasses.
Global adoption of genetically modified (GM) crops continues to increase, with 134 million hectares of GM varieties planted in 25 countries in 2009. However ten years after the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification concluded that New Zealand should ‘keep its options open’, there are no genetically modified crops in production here. New Zealand’s economy is dependent on pasture-based agriculture. GM forage grasses are being developed here that could potentially provide significant economic and environmental benefits that might outweigh the risks of uncertain market acceptance.
This report looks at the economic, social and regulatory issues that could influence a decision to adopt GM pasture grasses in New Zealand, including the possibility for coexistence of GM, conventional and organic crops. Research on GM grasses is at an early stage, and the necessary first step will be a demonstration of the safety and efficacy of the GM varieties. The regulatory system in New Zealand presents a high hurdle for performing the research needed. This report summarizes the challenges faced by researchers in New Zealand, in comparison with the US and Australia, and provides some suggestions for a way forward to allow New Zealand to make informed decisions about the option of using GM crops.
Appendix 1: Acronyms and abbreviations
Appendix 2: Biotechnology regulatory workshop
Appendix 3: Regulation of GM organisms
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