The Green Party says it will not soften its anti-genetic modification stance despite a plea from some of the world's top scientists, who say opposition by green groups is blocking GM foods that could help reduce disease in third-world countries.

In an open letter published last week, 107 Nobel laureates urged environmental groups to end their opposition to genetically modified food, saying that there was no evidence of risks to human health and their stance was based on emotion and dogma. The scientists singled out Greenpeace, saying it had led opposition to Golden Rice, a crop which is genetically modified to provide Vitamin A and which has the potential to reduce disease and death in third-world countries.

The open letter prompted Act Party leader David Seymour to call on the Green Party to abandon its "outdated" position on GM.

"The Green Party needs to catch up with science, and modify its position on genetic modification, especially when Golden Rice has the ability to give sight to thousands of babies struggling with a lack of Vitamin A," he said.


Green Party GM spokesman Steffan Browning said the party re-evaluated its GM policy regularly, but it would not be making any changes as a result of the open letter.

The arguments around Golden Rice - a product targeted at third-world countries - were not relevant to New Zealand, he said. The debate here should centre on what was best for the environment and trade.

"I actually think that overseas, consumers want their food to be safe, GE-free and organic. From a New Zealand point of view, we've got a reputation and we need to keep that reputation. That's the direction we need to be going here, not different snapshots of maybe-science ... and not some new hype for someone's IP [intellectual property]."

The Green Party's long-standing policy is for genetic modification to remain within laboratories and to stay out of food products.

Director of Genetics Otago Professor Peter Dearden said he agreed with the open letter's authors.

"It is time for us to stop believing that all GM is bad and to see that the benefits can far outweigh the risks," he said. "This is not to say we should have no regulation, but that such regulation should be evidence-based and not coloured by the view that GM is necessarily bad."