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New Zealand: Animals

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Highly Regulated

All types of gene editing regulated as GMOs.

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.

Regulatory Timeline

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.

2018: The Royal Society of New Zealand, a nonprofit science advocacy group, releases a discussion paper “exploring the potential uses of gene editing for the primary industries” in New Zealand.

2017: The Royal Society of New Zealand creates a gene editing panel to facilitate discourse and research surrounding gene editing technologies.

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.

NGO Reaction

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.

Additional Resources

Click on a country (eg. Brazil, US) or region (eg. European Union) below to find which agriculture products and processes are approved or in development and their regulatory status. The regulations on genetically engineered crops and animals are emerging out of the regulatory landscape developed for transgenic GMOs.

European Union

European Union


New Zealand

New Zealand

United States

United States





United Kingdom

United Kingdom













Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia

Central America

Central America




Agriculture Gene Editing Index
Compare Regulatory Restrictions Country-to-Country

Gene editing regulations worldwide are evolving. The Gene Editing Index ratings below represent the current status of gene editing regulations and will be updated as new regulations are passed.

Colors and ratings guide

Regulation StatusRating
Determined: No Unique Regulations*10
Lightly Regulated8
Proposed: No Unique Regulations†6
Ongoing Research, Regulations In Development5
Highly Regulated4
Mostly Prohibited2
Limited Research, No Clear Regulations1
Lightly Regulated: Some or all types of gene editing are regulated more strictly than conventional agriculture, but not as strictly as transgenic GMOs.
*Determined: No Unique Regulations: Gene-edited crops that do not incorporate DNA from another species are regulated as conventional plants with no additional restrictions.

†Proposed: No Unique Regulations: Decrees under consideration for gene-edited crops that do not incorporate DNA from another species would no require unique regulations beyond current what is imposed on conventional breeding.

Gene editing of plants and food products. Research and development has mostly focused on disease resistance, drought resistance, and increasing yield, but more recent advances have produced low trans-fat oils and high-fiber grains.
Gene editing of animals, not including animal research for human drugs and therapies. Fewer gene edited animals have been developed than gene edited crops, but scientists have developed hornless and heat-tolerant cattle and fast-growing tilapia may soon be the first gene edited animal to be consumed.

Rating by Country / Region
Click each column header and arrow to sort the countries / regions

Swipe right/left if all columns aren't visible

Country / RegionFood / CropsAnimalsAg Rating
New Zealand444
Central America666

Global gene editing regulatory landscape

The regulations on genetically engineered crops and animals are emerging out of the regulatory landscape developed for transgenic GMOs. Regulations across 34 countries where transgenic or gene edited crops and animals are commercially allowed (as of 12/19) are guided in part by two factors:
Whether the country has ratified the international agreement that took effect in 2003 that aims to ensure the safe handling, transport and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from biotechnology that may impact biological diversity, also taking into account potential risks to human health. It entered into force for those nations that signed it in 2003. It applies the ‘precautionary approach as contained in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. The US, Canada, Australia and Chile and the Russian Federation have not signed the treaty.
Whether regulations are based on the genetic process used to create the trait (conventional, mutagenesis, transgenesis, gene editing, etc.) or the final product.Transgenic crops and animals (aka GMOs) are product regulated in many countries including the US and Canada, while the EU, India, China and others regulate based on how the product is made. There is almost an equal number of countries with product- and process-based regulations. It’s not clear how much this distinction matters. It’s somewhat true that countries with product-based regulation have more crops approved and the approval process is more streamlined, but there are contradictions. For example, Brazil and Argentina have emerged as GMO super powers using different regulatory concepts, while there is no GMO commercial cultivation in Japan, North Korea, and the Russian Federation, which employ product-based regulations. How this will effect gene editing regulations is also unclear. For example, Japan, which has no commercialized GMOs, is emerging as a leader in the introduction of gene edited crops.
Agricultural Landscape
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Gene editing is a set of techniques that can be used to precisely modify the DNA of almost any organism. It is being used for applications in human health, gene drives and agriculture. There are numerous gene-editing tools besides CRISPR-Cas 9, which gets most of the attention because it is a comparatively easy tool to use.

Gene editing does not usually involve transgenics – moving ‘foreign’ genes between species. It also refers to a specific technique in contrast to the general term GMO, which is scientifically ambiguous, as genetic modification is a process not a product. Most gene editing involves creating new products by deleting very small segments of DNA (sometimes in agriculture called Site-Directed Nuclease 1 or SDN-1 techniques), which can silence a gene or change a gene’s activity. Countries are evaluating whether or not to regulate this type of gene editing, since it is so similar to natural mutations. The GLP’s Gene Editing Index ratings reflect the regulatory status of SDN-1 techniques, which are the most liberally regulated and will generate most products in the near term.

To develop different products, gene editing can change larger segments of DNA or add DNA from other species (a form of transgenics sometimes in agriculture called SDN-2 or SDN-3 techniques). While many countries are not regulating or lightly regulating SDN-1 techniques, most are moving toward tightly regulating or even restricting SDN-2 and SDN-3.

For more background on the various gene editing SDN techniques, read background articles here and here.