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Book review: Designer Genes
The New Zealand guide to the issues and facts and theories about Genetic Engineering
edited by Ray Prebble

  With the recent establishment of a NZ Royal Commission to look into every aspect of Genetic Modification,  genetic engineering issues are very much in the news.   A 7-member national  (Methodist,  Presbyterian and Anglican)  Inter-Church Commission on Genetic Engineering has recently been established.   Dr Audrey Jarvis  (Palmerston North),  Ms Maree Pene  (Hamilton),  and Revd Greg Hughson  (Dunedin)  are the Methodist representatives.   Part of our brief is to assist Church members to engage in the public debate.   Intelligent discussion and debate requires balanced information, and careful study.

One good place to begin if you know nothing or very little about genetic engineering is to read  "Designer Genes".   This excellent book has been written especially for our Aotearoa-New Zealand context.   It addresses important questions including   What is Genetic Engineering?   What are its benefits?   What are its risks?   Are GE foods safe?   How will it affect us?   There is a very helpful introductory chapter entitled  "A beginner's guide to biotechnology"  by Dr Sue Galloway,  a biochemist and member of the Dunedin Methodist Parish.   Eighteen short and easily readable chapters include articles on  "Spiritual and ethical considerations"  by the Rt Rev Dr Tom Brown,  Bishop of Wellington;  "A Maori response to the biogenetic age"  by Bevan Tipene-Matua;  and  "The Nuclear-free issue of the 21st Century"  by Jeanette Fitzsimons.   Legal and health issues pertaining to genetic engineering are also addressed.

As our Inter-Church Commission gets under way it is good to know that resources such as  Designer Genes  are available.   This book provides a very helpful overview of the main issues relating to genetic engineering.   Every Church library should have one or more copies.   You might like to consider using this book as a group study resource.   If,  after reading  Designer Genes,  you have comments to feed into the Inter-Church Commission,  please send them to me at  Box 1436  Dunedin,  or e- mail  chaplain@gandalf.otago.ac.nz  .   We will be putting in a submission to the Royal Commission on the Churches' behalf.

Greg Hughson   August, 2000

Designer Genes is available through Epworth Bookshop
Free phone 0 800 755355    Fax:  04 385 6114

Dark Horse Publications,  Wellington