OPINION: The Green Party has long had a tenuous relationship with science.
The low point came in 2014, when Green MP Steffan Browning signed a petition calling for the World Health Organisation to use homoeopathic remedies to tackle Ebola in West Africa, a move he later admitted was “probably pretty unwise”.
Now that Green MPs are ministers, the pseudoscience has been reined in and the best evidence available from the IPCC and other sources informs their policies on climate change.
But, as a group of young scientists pointed out in an open letter to the Greens last week, ideology rules the Party’s position on genetic modification.
“We believe that GM based research could be decisive in our efforts to reduce New Zealand and global climate emissions as well as partially mitigating some of the impacts of climate change,” wrote the 155 biology and environmental science PhD and Masters students.
They point out that we have one of the “toughest regulatory regimes” for GM research in the world, which has largely killed its development here. Our best GM scientists now do their work overseas.
The Greens are opposed to anything but tightly controlled GM lab experiments. That goes for genetically modifying pasture grasses to reduce emissions. It goes for using GM technologies such as gene drives to tackle our invasive pests.
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has ruled them out of the Government’s Predator Free 2050 plan. There were signs that climate change minister James Shaw was leading a re-think of his party’s position.
When asked by TVNZ in March whether he’d support the use of GM technologies to combat climate change he said: “I want to see what the science says about that and what the science ethics committee say about that. I would be led by the science on that.”
But two weeks ago, when asked about it in Parliament, Shaw toed the party line. We have to think of our GM-free brand, he said. There are non-GM solutions that will do the job.
Well, the science says that GM has huge potential to reduce emissions through agricultural efficiency, carbon sequestration, and alternative protein production.
Our young scientists know this. Shaw knows this.
But he is held captive by party members who want to cherry-pick the science to suit their ideological agenda.