AUSTRALIAN Greens leader Richard Di Natale’s ambivalence towards Genetically Modified crop technology has exposed policy contradictions that must inevitably be addressed, to build mainstream political credibility, says CropLife Australia CEO Matthew Cossey.
In an interview with Fairfax Agricultural Media in November last year, Senator Di Natale stated he had no blanket personal, philosophical, or ideological objections to the science of GMs.
After the article’s publication last week, the leader’s views were reported extensively by other national media outlets, while raising questions about a potential change of policy for the Greens.
However, the Greens were forced to publicly state that their basic policy stance - opposing GMs - wasn’t about to change, due to significant backlash.
The Greens said their support for the precautionary principle on GMs was reaffirmed via a federal policy review process at the party’s national conference, which came ahead of the interview with Senator Di Natale.
On Facebook last week, Senator Di Natale said a high evidence threshold must be met to demonstrate no negative impacts of GMs before his party would consider supporting their use.
But Mr Cossey said instead of being attacked, the Greens’ leader should be commended for showing genuine thought leadership on plant biotechnology.
Mr Cossey said to maintain an intellectual and scientific consistency - in line with other policies, like climate change and the environment, the Greens must adopt a pro-GM crop policy position.
He said based on the environmental benefits of GM crops alone, the Greens should back the technology’s adoption, “aside from any other political reasons”, to improve their engagement with agriculture and regional Australia.
However, long-term anti-GM campaigner, and Safe Food Foundation director, Scott Kinnear said he was concerned by Senator Di Natale’s personal views on GMs.
Mr Kinnear said in making comments on GMs, Senator Di Natale showed he had a political agenda to broaden the party’s base with mainstream voters.
But he said that agenda must not come at the expense of good policy which the environment, health and social justice movements support.
Mr Kinnear said that he had written to Senator Di Natale requesting a meeting, along with various other concerned groups, seeking clarification of his personal position on GM crops, not aligning with the party’s policy position.