BiotechNZ is urging the government to invest in funding biotechnology research for the benefit of all New Zealanders and the environment.

BiotechNZ executive director Dr Zahra Champion says governments, in New Zealand and abroad, can support gene editing research to ensure there is equitable access for farmers to new technologies.

“We would like to see greater government support for genetic research and this type of technology, with studies carried out by crown research institutes and universities in conjunction with our New Zealand companies,” she says.

“If New Zealand wants to reach its goals to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions, except biogenic methane, to zero by 2050, we must do something different.”

Champion says gene-editing technology can potentially increase crop yields and quality, plant drought-resistance, improved food safety, and security, improve product shelf life and higher nutritional value.

“Scientific research is essential to solving major problems that affect millions of people, such as global warming, disease, poverty, and inequality,” she says.

Human medicine involves the most up-to-date biotech science which is widely accepted in vaccines and other treatments and Champion would like to see biotech further utilised for farming innovation.

“We need the government to review gene technologies in New Zealand as the last time was the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification held in 2001.

“The field of genome science has advanced dramatically since then, especially the ability to work with genomes in a very precise way.”

Chief scientist at Plant & Food Research, Professor Richard Newcomb, says gene-editing technology is currently used as a research tool to assist with conventional breeding, however, it has the potential to be used to mitigate weaknesses in crops.

“It’s worth having more discussion around gene-editing technology generally. We see our role as providing options to New Zealand’s food producers and creating those options for stakeholders.”