Flowers on a genetically modified apple tree (Photo: Supplied / Plant and Food Research)

GM could be decisive: An open letter to the Green Party from young NZ scientists

More than 150 New Zealand scientists under 30 have signed a letter to the Green Party urging a rethink of its stance on the regulation of genetic modification. The full text of the letter follows. 

To the members and supporters of the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand and their representatives in government 

Climate change is one of the greatest crises in human history, and our current law severely restricts the development of technologies that could make a vital difference. In 2003 the 1996 Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act was modified to tightly regulate research into genetic modification (GM). This legislation and the surrounding public debate was driven by uncertainty about the risks that these new technologies posed to biodiversity and human health, and resulted in creating one of the toughest regulatory environments in the world for this field of research.

We, an emerging generation of New Zealand scientists with expertise in and/or undertaking research in the biological sciences*, are writing to request that the Green Party reconsider its position on the regulation of these technologies. We are addressing this letter to the Greens because of a history of leading in science-based policy such as climate action, even when that path is difficult. We believe that GM based research could be decisive in our efforts to reduce New Zealand and global climate emissions as well as partially mitigating some of the impacts of climate change. At the same time, we emphasise that potential reduction of impact is not a substitute for emission reduction.

The period since the introduction of the 2003 legislation has seen important GM related research in the areas of agricultural efficiency, carbon sequestration, and alternative protein production. The existing regulation in New Zealand inhibits application of advances such as these, blocking not only the development of green technology, but the potential for a just transition away from extractive and polluting industries. New Zealand has the opportunity to be a world leader in such a transition: for example, the development and demonstration of effective technologies to reduce agricultural emissions could have an international impact and set an example for other countries.

While such a powerful technology as targeted genetic modification certainly requires controls, existing frameworks do not enable public and environmental benefits from these technologies to be realised. The gene editing expert advice panel supported by The Royal Society Te Apārangi, the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, and the interim climate change committee have recently called for public discussion on potential reform of New Zealand’s laws around modern gene editing techniques.

As a confidence and supply member of the current government the Greens have the ability to drive this reform: the members can persuade the party to reconsider its policy position, and the Members of Parliament can influence the government it supports to revise the legislation. The Greens have been strong advocates of both climate action and evidence based policy informed by science. In this light we call upon its members, supporters, ministers, and MPs to add their voices to the cause of a science-based approach to climate, on behalf of the people and environment of both Aotearoa and the world.

Ngā mihi

PhD

Kyle Webster, University of Auckland, Bio-nanotechnology

Luke Stevenson, Victoria University of Wellington, Biotechnology

Emilie Gios, University of Auckland, Microbial ecology

Morgane Merien, University of Auckland, Biological Sciences – Entomology

Lucie Jiraska, University of Auckland, Environmental Microbiology

Victor Yim, University of Auckland, Peptide chemistry

Zach McLean, University of Auckland, Genetic engineering

Declan Lafferty, Plant and Food Research/University of Auckland, Genetics and Molecular Biology

Samarth Samarth, University of Canterbury, Plant Biology

Juliane Gaviraghi Mussoi, University of Auckland, Avian Behaviour

Alex Noble, University of Canterbury, Biology

Kelsey Burborough, University of Auckland, Genetics

Matthew Mayo-Smith, University of Auckland, Plant Molecular Biology

Moritz Miebach, University of Canterbury, Plant-microbe interactions

Olivia Ogilvie, University of Auckland, Food Biotech / Biochemistry

Rachel Bennie, University of Canterbury, Human Toxicology

Sean Mackay, University of Otago, Chemistry and Nanotechnology

Georgia Carson, Victoria University of Wellington, Cell and Molecular Biology

Ruby Roach, Massey University

Jeremy Stephens, Massey University, Biology

Zidong (Andy) Li, Massey University, Molecular Cancer Biology

Aqfan Jamaluddin, University of Auckland, Molecular Pharmacology

Michael Fairhurst, Victoria University of Wellington, Microbiology

Nikolai Kondratev, Massey University, Plant Biology

Mariana Tarallo, Massey University, Plant pathology

Ellie Bradley, Massey University, Plant pathology

Mercedes Rocafort Ferrer, Massey University, Plant pathology

Yi-Hsuan Tu, Massey University, Biochemistry & Microbiology

Sean Bisset, Massey University, Biochemistry

Patrick Main, Massey University, Biological sciences

Abigail Sharrock, Victoria University of Wellington, Biotechnology

Alvey Little, Victoria University of Wellington, Molecular Microbiology

William Odey, Victoria University of Wellington, Biotechnology

Gabrielle Greig, Victoria University of Wellington, Molecular Microbiology

Melanie Olds, Victoria University of Wellington, Biotechnology

Jennifer Soundy, Victoria University of Wellington, Biological Sciences

Matire Ward, Victoria University of Wellington, Cell and molecular bioscience

Tom Dawes, Victoria University of Wellington, Plant Ecology

Hamish Dunham, Victoria University of Wellington, Biomedical science

Amy Alder, Victoria University of Wellington, Neuroscience

Caitlin Harris, University of Otago, Plant genetics

Lucy Gorman, Victoria University of Wellington, Coral reef biology

Vincent Nowak, Victoria University of Wellington, Biotechnology

Brandon Wright, University of Otago, Biochemistry

Anna Tribe, Victoria University of Wellington, Cancer cell biology

Conor McGuinness, University of Otago, Breast Cancer

Genomics/Immunology Kelsi Hall, Victoria University of Wellington, Biotechnology

Andrew Howard, University of Waikato, Biochemistry

Mitch Ganley, Victoria University of Wellington, Biotechnology/vaccines

Matt Munro, Victoria University of Wellington, Biomedical Science

Prashath Karunaraj, University of Otago, Genetics

Pascale Lubbe, University of Otago, Evolutionary genetics

Mackenzie Lovegrove, University of Otago, Genetics, Insect evolution

Nicholas Foster, University of Otago, Ecology

Taylor Hamlin, University of Otago, Antarctic Marine Ecosystem & Movement Ecology

Fionnuala Murphy, Massey University, Proteomics

Amanda Board, University of Canterbury, Protein Biochemistry

Esther Onguta, Massey University, Food Technology

Noémie Petit, University of Auckland, Proteins

Liam Le Lievre, University of Otago, Plant Reproduction

James Hunter, University of Otago, Ecology

Samarth Kulshrestha, University of Canterbury,

Rebecca Clarke, University of Otago, Whole body regeneration

Sarah Killick, University of Auckland, Environmental Science

Stephanie Workman, University of Otago, Developmental Genetics

Erik Johnson, University of Otago, Oceanography

Declan Lafferty, University of Auckland, Molecular Biology

Laurine van Haastrecht, Victoria University of Wellington, Glaciology

Leo Mercer, Victoria University of Wellington, Environmental Studies

Aidan Joblin-Mills, Victoria University of Wellington, Chemical Genetics

Gabrielle Keeler-May, University of Otago, Marine Science

Aqfan Jamaluddin, University of Auckland, Pharmacology

Spencer McIntyre, University of Auckland, Biological Sciences

Sarah Inwood, University of Otago, Genetics

Isabelle Barrett, University of Canterbury, Freshwater ecology

Olivia Angelin-Bonnet, Massey University, Biostatistics

Hannah McCarthy, Massey University, Plant Pathology

Sofie Pearson, Massey University, Plant Science

Zac Beechey-Gradwell, Lincoln University, Plant physiology

Hannah Lee-Harwood, Victoria University of Wellington, Biotechnology

Euan Russell, University of Otago, Microbiology

Masters

Kelly Styles, University of Auckland, Biological Sciences

Merlyn Robson, University of Auckland, Virology

Andra Popa, University of Auckland

James Love, University of Auckland, Bioinformatics

Evie Mansfield, University of Auckland, Molecular Microbiology

Ash Sargent, University of Auckland, Immunology

Sabrina Cuellar, University of Auckland, Plant Genetics

Renji Jiang, University of Canterbury, Plant pathology

Morgan Tracy, University of Canterbury, Ecology

Brook O’Reilly, University of Canterbury, Biological Sciences

Irene Saxby, University of Auckland, Structural Biology

Michael Newton-Vesty, University of Canterbury

Adam Colsell, University of Canterbury, Biotechnology

Liam McIver, University of Canterbury, Ecology

Nathan Hulston, University of Canterbury, Plant Biotechnology

Louis Perriman, University of Canterbury, Toxicology

Aanchal Singh, Victoria University of Wellington, Biotechnology

Olga Palmer, Victoria University of Wellington, Immunology

Devlin Forsythe, Victoria University of Wellington, Cancer Cell Biology

Kaitlyn Daley, Victoria University of Wellington, Cell and Molecular bioscience

Aseel Mohammad, Massey University, Biochemistry-cancer research

Shannon Ormond, Massey University, Human genetics/biochemistry

Sarah Wilson, Massey University, Biochemistry

Madeline Griffiths, Victoria University of Wellington, Biomedical Science

Brittany Florence-Bennett, Victoria University of Wellington, Ecology and Biodiversity

Raoul Solomon, Massey University, Genetics and Biochemistry

Liam Hewson, Massey University,

Madeleine Palmer, Massey University, Neurogenetics

Georgia Davey, Massey University, Microbiology

Catrina Olivera, Massey University, Microbiology

Rayen Leon, Massey University, Biochemistry

Brittany Drummond, Massey University, Biochemistry

Victoria Carrington, Victoria University of Wellington, Marine Biology

India McJarrow-Keller, Massey University, Plant biology

Caitlyn Shannon, Victoria University of Wellington, Marine Biology

Jennifer Francis, Victoria University of Wellington, Biotechnology

Sarah Messenger, Victoria University of Wellington, Biotechnology

Jessica Russell, Victoria University of Wellington, Ecology and honey bee

epidemiology Anna Clark, University of Otago, Genetic pest control (rodents)

Rosemary Sullivan, University of Otago, Genetics

Bridget Mackie, University of Otago, Genetics

Sean Driver, University of Otago, Genetics

Vincent Collins, Victoria University of Wellington, Biotechnology

Daniel Chaji, Victoria University of Wellington

Claudia Davies, University of Otago, Genetics – Demethylation in

cancer Oly Hall, University of Otago, Freshwater ecology

Janine Sharma, Victoria University of Wellington, Cell and Molecular Bioscience

Sharna McCleary, University of Waikato, Molecular Genetics

Rachael Ellis, University of Otago, Plant Biotechnology and Botany

Alex Kane, Victoria University of Wellington, Biotechnology

Melita Busch, University of Otago, Zoology

Miriam Hunt, University of Otago, Genetics

Rory Besaans, Victoria University of Wellington, Biotechnology

Jack Sissons, Victoria University of Wellington, Biotechnology

Brittany Jones, University of Otago, Quantitative Genetics

Campbell Gilbert, University of Otago, Genetics

Brooke Williams, University of Otago, Genetics

Maddi Post, University of Otago, Biotech

Cameron Stern, University of Auckland, Biology/Plant Breeding

Vaughan Trounson, Victoria University of Wellington, Biomedical Science

Shannon Taylor, University of Otago, Genetics

Harry Biggs, University of Otago, Genetics

Jasmine Divinagracia, University of Otago, Plant Biotechnology

Zoe Erridge, Plant and Food Research, Post-Harvest

Subin Jeon, Plant and Food Research, Gene editing, molecular biology

Clara Schlieman, University of Otago, Marine Science

Toby Elliott, University of Auckland, Plant Ecology

Matthew Arnet, University of Canterbury, Plant biology

Merlyn Robson, Plant and Food Research, Virology

Ella Williams, University of Otago, Genetics

Anna Martinson-Behling, Massey University, Genetics

Aden Murtagh, Massey University, Chemistry and nanoscience

Ruby Bennett, Massey University, Biological science, Spatial ecology

Jacob Simmonds, Victoria University of Wellington, Biotechnology

Supporting signatories

Honours

Olivia Kelly, University of Otago, Plant Biotechnology

Dylan Goldsmith, University of Canterbury, Biochemistry

Georgia Johnstone, University of Otago, Genetics, development

Over 30s

Janelle Moody, University of Auckland, Plant Biology

Jev Upton, Victoria University of Wellington, Cell and Molecular Bioscience

Nicola Haisman, Waikato University, Plant Physiology

Casey Flay, Massey University, Molecular biology, Plant biology, Entomology

Ming Williams, University of Otago, Marine Science

Sujani Ariyadasa, University of Canterbury / Institute of Environmental Science and Research  Biotechnology

Zoya Pezhman, University of Canterbury, Biotechnology

Seoljong Kim, University of Canterbury, Forestry

Mark Herse, University of Canterbury, Ecology

Richard Little, Victoria University of Wellington, Molecular Biology

Kevin Sheridan, University of Otago, Biochemistry/Botany

Gemma McLaughlin, University of Otago, Genomes

David Chagne Plant & Food Research Genomics

Johanna Spaak, University of Waikato, Plant Physiology

Kris Kramer-Walter, Plant and Food Research, Plant Physiology

Elena Lopez Girona, Plant and Food Research, Plant Genetics

Junqi Zhu, Plant and Food Research, Grape and Wine

Mareike Knaebel, Plant and Food Research, Plant Genetics

Colm Carraher, Plant and Food, Research Protein biochemistry and biosensors

Matthew van Voorthuizen, University of Canterbury, Biotechnology

Warwick Allen, University of Canterbury, Ecology

Joanna Green, University of Canterbury

Please direct correspondence to secretary@escanz.org

* The 155 primary signatories are under 30 as of 1/1/2020 and have or are studying for a PhD or Masters degree in Biological or Environmental Science at one of seven New Zealand universities or Plant and Food Research.


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