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Frequently asked questions

  1. Where can bioprospectors collect biological samples?
  2. Why the interest in biodiscovery?
  3. How much biodiscovery is currently occurring in New Zealand?
  4. What is sustainable biodiscovery policy?
  5. How does biodiscovery relate to the Biotechnology Strategy?
  6. How does biodiscovery relate to biodiversity?
  7. What are other countries doing?

 


1. Where can bioprospectors collect biological samples?

Bioprospectors can collect their samples from two main sources:

  • From where the biological sample is found naturally, for example from land, freshwater or marine environments (that is, "in situ"); and
  • From existing collections of biological material, for example a zoo or an aquarium (that is, "ex situ").

 

2. Why the interest in biodiscovery?

Biodiscovery activities have led to the development of many valuable products and applications. Examples include medicines, cosmetics, industrial lubricants, adhesives, and the use of micro-organisms to make industrial processes cleaner and more efficient.

In general, the potential development of high-value products or emergence of new markets could help transform the New Zealand economy and build economic prosperity for all New Zealanders.

 

3. How much biodiscovery is currently occurring in New Zealand?

There is a general lack of information about the biodiscovery sector - which is fairly small in New Zealand - making it hard to quantify the extent of current research, or the potential commercial value of our biological resources. There are, however, a number of biodiscovery projects currently being undertaken by the Crown Research Institutes, universities and private companies. To overcome this shortfall in knowledge the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment has started work on a stocktake of biodiscovery in New Zealand.  More information can be found here.

 

4. What is sustainable biodiscovery policy?

Sustainable biodiscovery policy recognises the need to avoid, remedy or mitigate any potential environmental or ecological impacts resulting from biodiscovery activity. Sustainability will be an important focus of any biodiscovery policy framework developed in New Zealand, in order to protect New Zealand's biodiversity, threatened species, rare and threatened ecosystems, as well as archaeological and wāhi tapu sites of cultural and historic significance.

 

5. How does biodiscovery relate to the Biotechnology Strategy?

Biodiscovery is one type of research that falls under the Biotechnology Strategy. The Biotechnology Strategy is setting the high level framework for biotechnology research, focusing on:

  • Better connections between New Zealand communities and the biotechnology sector;
  • Effective regulation to manage the development and introduction of new biotechnologies; and
  • Growing the commercial value of the biotechnology sector.

 

6. How does biodiscovery relate to biodiversity?

The New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy (NZBS) was launched in 2000 in response to New Zealand’s obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity. Although the NZBS concentrates on the conservation of biodiversity, it includes the aim of “the development of an integrated policy and legislative framework for managing bioprospecting in New Zealand”. 

The very first work streams around biodiscovery flowed out of the NZBS, and were initially managed by the Department of Conservation but in 2001 this work was passed on to the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment.

Department of Conservation website

 

7. What are other countries doing?

A number of countries are developing access and benefit sharing regimes for their biological resources. It is important to examine these various frameworks and learn from them during the development of a biodiscovery framework for New Zealand.

Last updated 19 November 2013