Sir Peter Gluckman says the debate over whether to use genetically edited grasses to combat greenhouse gas emissions is more philosophical than scientific.
The former Chief Science Adviser to the Prime Minister spoke to The Country's Jamie Mackay about his report released this week in which he suggests New Zealand needs to have a "national conversation," about using GMOs in agriculture.
"What I've raised in the report is just that if we're serious about climate change, if we're serious about environmental protection, if we're serious about a reduction in predators and protecting biodiversity, we perhaps need to think again about whether the technologies which are increasingly being used offshore have got a role to play in New Zealand."
Mackay wonders if consumers will want to eat products from animals that have grazed on genetically modified grass, but Gluckman says this is already happening.
"Around the world consumers are eating lots of meat and lots of milk that are coming from genetically modified crops now ... it's been going on at least for a decade broadly around the world."
Gluckman says the issue is more "philosophical rather than a scientific debate" with a number of countries ruling that gene editing does not need the same regulatory controls as gene modification, but "other countries are not so certain."
Gluckman believes there needs to be a discussion around the use of GM grasses before New Zealand begins testing them.
"I think that in theory it's possible in New Zealand. It's just that in practice it's not possible and I think one would need a much broader national conversation to look through the issues which are largely more philosophical and values-based than they are scientifically based."
Also in today's interview: Sir Peter Gluckman explains the difference between genetic modification and gene editing.