Genetically Modified Foods: Some Issues

Sharron Cole
Issue 1, August 2000

In its simplest terms, genetically modified food is food from plants which have had their genes altered in a laboratory. These modifications might confer resistance to insect, viral or fungal pests. They might foster herbicide resistance, meaning that weeds can easily be killed by spraying standing crops with the herbicide to which they (and not the weeds) are resistant. Finally, they can improve taste, colour, shelf life and the overall quality of a product.


The Royal Commission on Genetic Modification: Not the Whole Answer?

Nathaniel Centre Staff
Issue 1, August 2000

The Royal Commission on Genetic Modification has begun work on the huge task of inquiring into and reporting on the strategic options available to New Zealand with respect to genetic modification. This work is to be completed by June 2001. The Commission has four members: Sir Thomas Eichelbaum (Chair), Dr Jean Fleming, Rev Richard Randerson, and Dr Jaqueline Allan. A voluntary moratorium on all applications for release and (with some exceptions) field testing of genetically modified organisms for the duration of the Royal Commission is being negotiated between Government and affected groups.


New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference Oral Submission to the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification

Issue 3, April 2001

The Royal Commission on Genetic Modification has recently completed fourteen weeks of formal hearings, with some 330 "interested parties" having presented written submissions and appeared before the Commission. Public meetings, regional Hui and a meeting with young people been held and some 10,000 written submissions received from the general public. The Commission now has the substantial task of analysing what it has received, and determining the directions for New Zealand with respect to the use of genetic modification.

On 22 February 2001, Bishop Peter Cullinane, Father Michael McCabe and Anne Dickinson appeared before the Royal Commission to discuss the written submission made by the New Zealand Catholic Bishops' Conference. Before answering questions from the Commission they presented the following oral submission.


Report of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification : A Via Media

Anne Dickinson and Michael McCabe
Issue 4, August 2001

The Royal Commission on Genetic Modification has recommended that New Zealand should "preserve its opportunities and keep its options open" and that "it would be unwise to turn our back on the potential advantages on offer, but we should proceed carefully, minimizing and managing risks."

The approach taken by the Royal Commission could be described as a "Via Media", that is, a middle way, the path of wisdom and balance. This approach reflects that taken by the Catholic Bishops' Conference in their submission to the Commission. The Report shows that balancing individual rights and interests with the greater good of society is no easy task, especially with regard to agriculture and horticulture.