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Biotech and taonga

New Zealand’s cultural and natural history gives us unique knowledge and materials for biotechnology.

New Zealand’s traditional knowledge

Māori culture and traditional knowledge, taonga, is passed from generation to generation. Several hundred years of experience make this a great source of knowledge about the properties and use of New Zealand’s natural resources.

Combining traditional knowledge with science has the potential to develop new biotechnologies. For instance, harakeke (flax) has a long history of use by Māori as a strong fibre for weaving and as rongoā (remedies) to treat wounds or stomach upsets. New Zealand company Industrial Research Limited (IRL) is working with Māori to better understand their traditional uses of harakeke and to develop new uses.

Get video conference: The Harakeke Project

New Zealand’s natural resources

New Zealand has been isolated from other countries for most of its geological life. This makes our indigenous flora and fauna unique. Scientists are investigating whether the properties of these unique organisms can be used to make new products such as cosmetic ingredients, bioplastics, medicines, biofuels and fabrics.

Get video conference: Karen Farley’s cosmetics

Biotechnology and sustainability

While science is finding new uses for New Zealand’s natural resources, we are also finding ways to look after them in a responsible and sustainable way. For example, using mānuka honey as a wound-care product has significantly increased the value of mānuka and caused a conscious effort to maintain areas of native mānuka bush.

Get focus story: Honey to heal


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Did you know?

Hundreds of animals and plants make antibiotics, a relatively small number of which are clinically useful.

View more "Did You Know"