Wharf42 strongly supports calls to end the effective ban on GE and GM in New Zealand.

On Sunday, the National Party published a paper called ‘Harnessing Biotech’. Its plan consisted of 3 core elements;

  1. End the effective ban on GE and GM in New Zealand.
  2. Create a dedicated regulator to ensure safe and ethical use of biotechnology.
  3. Streamline approvals for trials and use of non-GE/GM biotech

We have been calling for this policy change for years. As the founders of Agritech New Zealand and a global partner to some key international players, we have witnessed at first hand the negative impact current policy has had on New Zealand agricultural research and commercialisation opportunities. Gene editing and CRISPR in particular, has been proven scientifically to support the reduction of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and improvement of on-farm productivity. These should be key priorities for the New Zealand government and removing current GE restrictions will go a long way to accelerate our success in achieving these goals.

Last month, the NZ Government released an updated version of its Agritech Industry Transformation Plan (ITP). It aimed to increase agritech exports to $8B by 2030. This number is challenging enough. With our research and industry entities operating with one hand behind their backs however, it is almost unrealistic given the widespread adoption of GE in many peer countries.

The timing of this announcement coincides with next week’s 2023 Salinas Biological Summit, which we are proudly hosting. Reducing the use of chemical pesticides on soil and plants with more biological alternatives can be accelerated with the application of GE technologies. At the moment, such work is evidenced at major US research institutions such as UC Davis. Why not AgResearch & Plant & Food Research in New Zealand who currently have to work with global partners to trial some of their incredible research offshore?

The ‘Harnessing Biotech’ policy proposal from the National Party does not suggest a biotech ‘free-for-all’. Instead, there will be a dedicated regulator to ensure the safe and ethical use of biotechology. In the past, I’ve been told by Government Ministers that when it comes to GE, it’s time for a ‘robust discussion’. Then nothing.

Wharf42 very much hopes that National’s ‘Harnessing Biotech’ plan accelerates that discussion and the country’s agritech community has the opportunity to compete globally on a level playing field. It’s that message that we will be taking to California this week.