Prof George Petersen, New Zealand's ''father of DNA''
research, says this country benefited from scientists
initially adopting voluntary restrictions over experiments
with genetically-modified organisms.
The New Zealand International Science Festival and Genetics
Otago yesterday held a luncheon in Prof Petersen's honour,
attended by more than 70 people, at Knox College, Dunedin.
Prof Petersen (80) said yesterday New Zealand had benefited
from taking a transparent but cautious approach to laboratory
experiments involving genetically modified organisms (GMOs),
including voluntary limitations initially imposed by DNA
Also positive had been moves to raise public awareness of
genetic modification-related issues and to take community
opinion into account through a Royal Commission on Genetic
Modification, established in 2000, he said in an interview.
Through its scientists taking an open and proactive approach,
and by taking public opinion into account and later imposing
statutory controls, New Zealand had avoided a popular
backlash against all laboratory GMO research.
Such a backlash could have badly harmed New Zealand's science
and economy, he said.
Prof Petersen helped establish and chaired for 20 years an
informal committee which reported annually to Parliament and
considered proposals by scientists wishing to undertake
laboratory experiments with GMOs.
Prof Petersen long headed the Otago biochemistry department
(1968-99) and in 2003 became the first Otago academic to be
awarded the prestigious Rutherford Medal.
The programme for the latest Dunedin-based science festival
(July 5-13) was also formally launched at yesterday's event.
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull emphasised the Dunedin City Council's
strong support for the festival as a positive event
consistent with the council's aims to promote Dunedin as one
of the world's best small cities.
Prof Petersen has been the festival's patron since 1998, and
was yesterday awarded a festival life membership.