All gene editing techniques are considered genetic modification and are tightly regulated. New Zealand has adopted a wait-and-see-approach with regard to updating regulations to address gene editing, monitoring how other countries, especially those New Zealand exports to, decide to regulate.
Gene edited animals are regulated by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), which oversees the development and release of GMOs under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996. All gene editing techniques are regulated even if they are not transgenic (do not incorporate foreign genes). In 2018, the Environment Minister, along with researchers, called for an update to the HSNO Act, arguing that there is no clear path to market for any gene edited animals and that New Zealand is in danger of falling behind other countries in genetic engineering and technological advancement.
No gene edited animals have been approved and no applications for a full environmental release have been received by the EPA.
- Hypoallergenic milk: Researchers at the New Zealand research institute AgResearch used a gene editing technique called TALENs to genetically edit cattle without the major milk allergen.
- Daughterless mice: Researchers from Australia and the US, in conjunction with the non-profit organization Island Conservation, are developing mice edited to only allow them to have male offspring, which could drive down the mice population in New Zealand quickly.
2019: New Zealand’s Opportunity Party releases a new policy on genetic modification that would de-regulate gene edited organisms when no new genetic material is added.
2016: The New Zealand government decides in 2016 that all gene editing techniques would be considered genetic modification.
2016: The Prime Minister announces Predator Free 2050, a program to eradicate rats, stoats, and possums from New Zealand by 2050.
2013: High Court of New Zealand rules that organisms created using ZFNs should be considered GMOs and regulated as such.
2001: The New Zealand government establishes the Royal Commision on Genetic Modification to “look into and report on the issues surrounding genetic modification” In New Zealand. Their conclusion is a “proceed with caution” approach.
1996: The Environmental Protection Authority releases the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996, establishing regulations for the creation and release of non-native (GM or otherwise) organisms into New Zealand.
Environmental advocacy groups including Greenpeace, Center for Food Safety, Environmental Working Group and Friends of the Earth Australia, have taken the stance that gene editing is just the newest version of transgenic modification (GMO 2.0), arguing that gene editing has not been tested enough for safety and could lead to unintended side effects.
- Genetic Literacy Project’s FAQ on gene editing
- Library of Congress summary of New Zealand gene regulations includes detailed analysis of the country’s evolving biosafety laws and liabilities
- A New Zealand Perspective on the Application and Regulation of Gene Editing
- Royal Society of New Zealand: Gene Editing: Legal and Regulatory Implications