The Green Party's apparent unwillingness to even have a discussion on the potential of genetic engineering to provide solutions to some of the country's most pressing environmental issues was extremely disappointing according to Federated Farmers spokesman Andrew Hoggard.
"Terse answers from Climate Change Minister James Shaw to Parliamentary questions this week indicate the Greens find the GE topic too hot to handle, but discussions on pragmatic and science-based policies should not be held to ransom by merely trying to keep a vocal section of your political party's membership happy," he said.
There had been "plenty" of media reports about a ryegrass developed by NZ AgResearch using gene editing, which could substantially reduce methane emissions from cattle, he added. Under current laws the grass could not be grown in New Zealand, however, and field trials were having to take place in the United States.
National's climate change spokesman Todd Muller had asked Mr Shaw if he agreed with the former Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, that New Zealand agriculture would struggle to be sustainable in the long-term without using gene editing.
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Mr Shaw's one-word reply was 'No, the same reply he gave when asked if he agreed with Sir Peter that '… there is no way that we will get a reduction in methane production, and I can see no way that we will see an economic advantage for farmers as we shift to more plant-based foods, without using gene editing'," Mr Hoggard said.
"Mr Shaw didn't have to agree with Sir Peter Gluckman, but we do hope he won't be so quick to shut down discussion of GE's potential in talks with groups such as Federated Farmers and others.
"We've already had Green MP and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage tell Predator-Free NZ not to pursue the option of GE technologies as an answer to eradication of possums, rats and other pests.
"Farmers are being called on to make deep cuts in emissions from their livestock. Just about the only way were going to be able to do that, without crippling the viability of many farms, are breakthrough technologies that are still being worked on.
"Federated Farmers' position is that we should at least be open to the potential of GE, and we need to continue scientific and field research on its advantages and disadvantages, at the same time as having an open-minded and rational debate with all New Zealanders."