New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2020) 44(2): 3413

Opportunities for modern genetic technologies to maintain and enhance Aotearoa New Zealand’s bioheritage

Forum Article
Sarah N Inwood 1
Gemma M McLaughlin 1
Thomas R Buckley 2,3
Murray P Cox 4
Kim M Handley 3
Tammy E Steeves 5
Timothy J Strabala 6
Rebecca McDougal 7
Peter K Dearden 1*
  1. Genomics Aotearoa and Biochemistry Department, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin, Aotearoa-New Zealand
  2. Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, Private Bag 92170 Auckland Mail Centre Auckland 1142
  3. School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland Mail Centre, Auckland 1142, New Zealand
  4. Bioprotection research centre and Statistics and Bioinformatics Group, Institute of Fundamental Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
  5. School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
  6. Environmental Protection Authority, Private Bag 63002, Wellington 6140, New Zealand
  7. Scion (New Zealand Forest Research Institute Limited), Te Papa Tipu Innovation Park, Private Bag 3020, Rotorua 3046, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

In the past few years genetic technologies springing from advances in DNA sequencing (so-called high-throughput sequencing), and/or from CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing, have been proposed as being useful in bioheritage research. The potential scope for the use of these genetic technologies in bioheritage is vast, including enabling the recovery of threatened species, engineering proxies of extinct species and genetically controlling pests. While these technologies are often complex, they provide new opportunities that may help support New Zealand’s beleaguered flora and fauna, and thus warrant scientific examination. Here we discuss these genetic technologies, focussing on scientific benefits and risks of each. We also acknowledge the social, cultural, ethical and regulatory constraints on their use, with emphasis on the importance of partnership with tangata whenua to determine when, whether or how these technologies should be used in enhancing New Zealand’s bioheritage. We hope this will provide source material to support future decision making around the use of new genetic technologies in bioheritage.