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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Plenary lecture - Ethical, Cultural and Spiritual Objections to Genetically Modified Organisms: A Review of the New Zealand Process and Perspective

Jean S. Fleming

The New Zealand Royal Commission on Genetic Modification was directed to investigate the strategic options available to address the use of genetically modified organisms and products. The Commission spent 14 months hearing submissions in public meetings and formal hearings. Over 10,000 written public submissions were received. Most were against any use of the technology in food, and many were angry at the lack of product labelling and therefore choice. Few were supportive, although there was little objection to the use of genetic technology or modified organisms in containment, especially for medical research. Many New Zealanders had strong spiritual objections to the creation of transgenic animals containing human DNA, which they described as “playing God” or “interfering with Nature”. Many expressed lack of trust in scientists and biotechnology companies. Despite these views, the Commission concluded that New Zealand should keep its options open and proceed carefully, minimising and managing risks. The Commission recommended that Government establish a Bioethics Council to act as a transparent advisory body and prepare guidelines on biotechnology, enabling public education and participation in decision-making.