AUSTRALIAN Greens leader Richard Di Natale says his party is considering a policy change on genetically modified crops.
Despite genetically modified (GM) crops being grown across much of the country, the Greens hold a long-standing policy position opposing GM crop production that cites the precautionary principle amid fears about potential impacts on human health and the environment.
In contrast, the two main federal political parties have GM policies that back the scientific stances adopted by national regulatory agencies, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR).
However, Senator Di Natale said he had no personal objection to the science of genetically modified crops and his party was considering a potential policy change on the controversial farm technology.
He said the Greens’ goal to expand its voter base to 20 per cent within a decade also involved connecting more with rural and regional communities where they’ve experienced recent success through hard-nosed policies on land use and mining.
But its opposition to GMs has continually frustrated farming groups.
However, Senator Di Natale - whose medical career included practicing in regional areas - said he personally had no philosophical or ideological objections to the science of GM.
He said genetic modification was “something we’ve done for a long time in medicine”.
“I do not have a blanket objection to the use of genetically modified crops – I absolutely don’t – and it would be hypocritical for me to say that because I support the use of genetic modification in medicine,” he said.
However, he said his party remained concerned about several areas including the influences driving on-farm GM use, preserving the choice of the farmer, and the ownership of intellectual property for specific GM seed products.
Senator Di Natale said GM crop development should not be guided by agrochemical companies seeking to increase on-farm inputs like pesticides or herbicides, compared to alternative methods of increasing food productivity.
He said his party would also continue to argue for better GM food labels, which were critical to ensuring consumers remained informed when purchasing.
“I think it’s also important to recognise the science in this area is developing all the time and it’s absolutely right to be cautious,” he said.
“I think some of the concerns people have expressed are real risks (and) it’s a bit simplistic to say GMO’s are safe or they’re not safe.
“I don’t have a blanket objection to GMs but also I’m not saying - and would never say - we should press ahead with all GMO applications because I think that’s really dangerous.”