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Unauthorised GE work should be halted now
5 May 2000
Green MP Sue Kedgley said today all work on recently discovered unauthorised genetic engineering experiments should be halted at once, until the Environmental Risk Management Authority has looked at these experiments and decided how to proceed.
"If scientists are going to ride roughshod over the ERMA approval process, they are going to deal with their research coming to a grinding halt now," said Ms Kedgley.
ERMA announced yesterday that unauthorised genetic engineering experiments had been discovered at the universities of Canterbury, Victoria, Massey and Waikato, and at the crown research institute ESR, following two earlier discoveries at the University of Otago in Christchurch and Landcare in Auckland.
Ms Kedgley said she supported ERMA's actions in suspending the delegated authority to safety committees, and in setting a deadline of 24 May to bring research programmes into line, after which institutions may face prosecution.
Ms Kedgley said that the process of getting approval from ERMA was very familiar to scientists, and given the high level of public concern about genetic engineering, there could be no excuses for them to circumvent the approval process in such a widespread way.
"ERMA has held a number of seminars on the legal processes and runs a website, and all research institutions have been briefed on the HSNO requirements.
"There are safety committees within these universities and research institutes which have been set up to authorise low-risk laboratory experiments. If there were any questions about the legality of existing experiments, it would have been easy to ask the nearest safety committee to look into it.
"I can only conclude that scientists have deliberately chosen not to follow the appropriate procedures to get approval for their experiments. It raises suspicions as to why, and as to whether some of these scientists had research they wanted to hide."