Editorial: Our laws must keep pace with science

By Kim Gillespie

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FILE
FILE

You don't have to be a scientist to see the wall of philosophical differences separating our forest research industry and opponents of genetic modification.

The High Court this week quashed an Environmental Protection Authority decision which would have allowed Rotorua's Scion to use certain breeding technologies in its forestry research.

The Sustainability Council had appealed the EPA decision, and this week won the High Court's backing.

This was hailed by the Greens as a win for New Zealand's primary sector, particularly because it would prevent a legal loophole potentially allowing the export of GM food to Europe without going through the current checks and balances.

Scion is, of course, disappointed by the High Court's ruling, saying it will set back its forestry research by years.

Scion's Elspeth MacRae told us it could take many more years and less precision if they had to use traditional breeding methods.

Chief executive Warren Parker said laws covering genetic modification were drafted 15 years ago and were "seriously deficient".

The Green Party says the EPA decision would have allowed a "free-for-all" using the new techniques, allowing GM food crops to be commercialised without public consultation.

This in turn would put our exports at risk, especially if the European Union prevents imports of GM food.

But does Scion's research necessarily have to lead to this scenario?

The laws around every area of advancing technology should be reviewed regularly to ensure they are still relevant and applicable.

As with the digital sphere, you do have to ask if our legal mechanisms are keeping up with technology in the forest research sector.

Progress should not come at all costs, but stifling progress should not be done blindly.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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