“This is another example of ACT leading the policy conversation and National adopting good ideas – an ACT-National Government can be a Government of real change,” says ACT candidate and scientist Dr Parmjeet Parmar.

“ACT has long said that if we want to get serious about reducing our emissions and allowing scientific innovation in New Zealand, rather than forcing our scientists to do their work in the States, we must liberalise our archaic GE laws.

“ACT has previously called for changes to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act to allow sectors like agriculture to access game-changing technology.

“However, due to the restrictive regime imposed by the HSNO Act, the important trial stages are seen to be easier to do overseas. For example, AgResearch has been undertaking continued research into High Metabolisable Energy ryegrass overseas.

“It has the potential to reduce livestock methane emissions by around 23 per cent, and ensure less nitrogen is excreted into the environment by livestock feeding on this ryegrass.

"If we are serious about lowering our emissions effectively without damaging our production, this is the sort of project we should be putting serious effort into.

“Former Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman highlighted this technology and suggested legislative change in his report to the Government in 2019: ‘They are not able to be field trialled here, but may be an effective way of sustaining productivity while lowering dairy cow numbers and the environmental burden of methane emissions.’

“Australia modernised its laws in October 2019. We risk being left behind if we don’t do the same.

“A law change is desperately needed to ensure we can make scientific advancements while having a clearly regulated framework that mitigates risk. Crucially, the regulation needs to be proportionate to risk.

“Advancement in the field of biotechnology has been rapid, and we're being left behind due to our archaic legislation.

“It makes sense to have taxpayer-funded research done here, not overseas. That would mean we reap the benefits of the work, and it ensures we stay at the cutting edge of scientific progress. It seems crazy to let New Zealand's great work be forced overseas.

“Liberalising our GE laws would lower emissions while increasing food production, and could tackle various environmental, conservation and health issues.

“New Zealand is now behind. How long can we keep avoiding the latest advancements?

“We need legislation that is fit for purpose, regulates what needs regulating and imposes penalties that are in proportion to the risks. The current legislation fails to do so. Currently, there’s more risk in not changing the law.

“An ACT-National Government can be a Government of real change if National continues to adopt good ideas. Let’s liberalise New Zealand’s archaic laws on genetic engineering and allow our scientists to be leaders, not laggards.”

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