It is time for New Zealand to restart the debate on genetic modification, says the Prime Minister's former science adviser Sir Peter Gluckman.

But the Government says there are no plans to change New Zealand's cautious approach to genetic modification, and any changes are many years away.

Marking the end of his nine-year stint as chief science adviser, Sir Peter said the science had shown genetic modification was safe.

"The science is as settled as it will be," Sir Peter told TVNZ's Q + A today.

"That is, it's safe, that there are no significant ecological or health concerns associated with the use of advanced genetic technologies."

That did not mean New Zealand society would automatically accept these technologies, he said.

"And what we need is a conversation which we've not had in a long time, and it needs to be, I think, more constructive and less polarised than in the past.

It has been nearly 20 years since genetic engineering was last debated at a national level in New Zealand.

It has since been used in research and in some medicines, but no fresh produce has been made using genetic methods.

Sir Peter listed some of the areas where genetic modification could be used.

"We're facing issues of biosecurity. We're facing issues of predators and the desire to be predator-free.

"We're facing the fact that our farming system needs to change because of the environmental impact of the greenhouse gas emissions, the water quality issues, et cetera.

"We are, fundamentally, a biologically-based economy. Now, the science is pretty secure, and science can never be absolute…

"But the uncertainty here is minimal to nil, very, very low. I think it's a conversation we need to have."

Environment Minister David Parker said there were no plans to change the existing regime, which took a precautionary approach.

"The first area where New Zealand may choose to consider these technologies may be pest control but that is many years away. "

Genetic modification or engineering has been touted as a possible option for wiping out entire species of pests in New Zealand.

One of the possible solutions is "editing" an animal's genes to instil infertility throughout an entire population.

However, Labour's confidence and supply partner the Green Party is against the use of gene testing for pest control.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage, a Green MP, has forbidden the use of genetic modification or gene-editing as part of the goal to wipe out predators by 2050.