Overarching and structural elements

This page outlines how, in 2001, the Government responded to the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification's recommendations about Māori participation, genetic discrimination, liability, ministerial call-in powers, establishing a Bioethics Council and a Parliamentary Commissioner on Biotechnology, and developing a biotechnology strategy.

Māori participation

11.1 To amend section 8 of HSNO Act to give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi

Agreed that the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996 be amended so that it more appropriately reflects the Treaty of Waitangi relationship.

Invited a group of Ministers, comprising the Minister for the Environment, the Minister of Māori Affairs, and the Associate Minister of Māori Affairs (Hon Sandra Lee), the Minister of Research, Science and Technology and the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, to appoint a Māori Reference Group to assist in addressing the issues in [the above paragraph].

Human rights/genetic discrimination

12.1 Toi te Taiao: the Bioethics Council, in association with the Human Rights Commission, address the issue of genetic discrimination

Agreed to refer the matter of genetic discrimination to the Human Rights Commission for further consideration as part of the development of a national plan of action for protecting human rights, which the Human Rights Commission is required to undertake in accordance with the provisions of the Human Rights Amendment Bill currently before the Justice and Electoral Committee.


12.2 For the time being there be no change in the liability system (but that the matter could be referred to Law Commission for further analysis)

Agreed that further work should be undertaken on the liability system during the constraint period.

Agreed that, for the time being, there be no change in the liability system for GM.

Invited the Minister Responsible for the Law Commission to report to POL and Cabinet by 30 November 2001 on whether this work should be included in the Law Commission’s work programme.

Ministerial call-in

14.1 Extend call-in powers under s68 of HSNO to include cultural, ethical and spiritual issues as grounds for Ministerial call-in

Agreed to amend section 68 of the HSNO Act 1996 to include significant cultural, ethical and spiritual effects as grounds for Ministerial call-in of an application.

Directed officials (Ministry for the Environment lead) to undertake further work to define the grounds referred to in paragraph [above] for implementation into the legislation as part of the proposed HSNO Amendment Bill for introduction in early to mid 2003.

Bioethics Council

14.2 Establish Toi te Taiao – the Bioethics Council

Agreed to establish the Toi te Taiao: the Bioethics Council (the Bioethics Council) to advise, provide guidelines and promote dialogue on the cultural, ethical and spiritual issues associated with biotechnology.

Agreed to consider funding for the Bioethics Council as a priority in the 2002 Budget, once further work has been done on the terms of reference.

Agreed that the functions of the Bioethics Council, together with the functions of education and futurewatch, encompass the existing functions of the Independent Biotechnology Advisory Council (IBAC).

Agreed to disestablish IBAC on the establishment of the Bioethics Council and to roll over existing appointments to IBAC until that time.

Directed officials (State Services Commission lead) to provide further advice to POL by 30 April 2002 on how to implement the Bioethics Council, including terms of reference, membership (including Māori representation) and institutional structure.

Parliamentary Commissioner on Biotechnology

14.3 Establish the office of Parliamentary Commissioner on Biotechnology

Agreed that the establishment of a Parliamentary Commissioner on Biotechnology is not the appropriate mechanism for biotechnology futurewatch, audit and educational functions proposed by the Royal Commission.

Agreed that the biotechnology futurewatch, audit and educational functions are important and should be incorporated into New Zealand’s institutional structure for addressing biotechnology issues.

Directed officials (Ministry of Research, Science and Technology lead) to report to POL as part of the Biotechnology Strategy on the appropriate mechanisms for considering the functions in RCGM recommendation 14.3.

Biotechnology strategy

14.4 Ministry of Research, Science and Technology develop a medium- and long-term biotechnology strategy

Agreed to the development of a strategy, to ensure that New Zealand keeps abreast of developments in biotechnology and has a mechanism to ensure ongoing balance between benefits and risks.

Agreed that the strategy should encompass consideration of the functions of education, audit, public participation and futurewatch proposed for the Parliamentary Commissioner on Biotechnology.