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Are the Greens anti-science?

David Gregory | 16:06 UK time, Thursday, 7 June 2012

That's what I'll be asking in a piece for The Sunday Politics this weekend.

It's a very hot topic amongst the "geekerati" (for want of a better word) and everything really seems to have come to a head with a GM crop trial based in Rothamsted.

You can read all about the research and the protestors plans to disrupt it here on the BBC website. Basically scientists want to see how a new form of GM wheat grows in the open. They've added a gene that occurs naturally in other plants to make the wheat smell bad to insect pests. The end result is wheat that needs less pesticide so is cheaper to grow and better for the environment.

Well that's the theory, but of course to see if the new wheat can grow in the real world you need to do the experiement. But given the aims it all sounds pretty green. As one researcher says in our report "are you really against this? Because it could have a lot of environmental benefits"

What the BBC report perhaps doesn't touch on is how many people with an interest in science were also present at the Rothamsted protest. Their aim to debate with the protestors. Both Tom Chivers in the Telegraph and Martin Robbins in The Guardian have interesting articles on this fight back by the science literate.

In these days of coalitions and protest votes it is possible the Green Party may well become an louder political voice in local and national politics. So their position on evidence-based policy is important.

There's no doubt the anti-GM protests of the last decade have had a crushing impact on the science in the UK and Europe. Indeed in its 2010 manifesto The Green Party said it would push for a Europe-wide ban on GM food.

As science fights back I'm starting to hear that approach may well be evolving. Tune in to BBC One at midday to find out more.


  • Comment number 1.

    I'm a Green Party member, and I was under the impression that most of the more daft anti-science stuff (homoeopathy etc) was no longer party policy. I was appalled when Jenny Jones announced backing for the protests and doubly so when official Green Party channels repeated and re-tweeted stuff that was clearly contrary to the party's stated (and democratically endorsed) policy. There was something of an unacknowledged climbdown and the deployment of a few more weasel words trying to distance the party from the planned illegal destruction itself, but too little too late. The crops survived, but the party's reputation has been shredded.

    I've considered resigning from the party over this, but I won't because there's no other party that takes social justice seriously. Before this happened, I used to argue that the Green Party had changed on science, that much of the old stupidity had gone, that the direction of travel was positive, and that any remaining problems were worth overlooking because of the rest of the party's policies. But that's a much harder argument to make now....

  • Comment number 2.

    I think it's rather harsh to label a whole party anti-science on the basis of one protest, which is what a lot of people seem to have done. While I'll admit I personally don't think things were handled well in terms of the message, there are significant concerns about GM that go beyond science, which are key considerations when deciding policy. There are 'geeks' and scientists who do have concerns. To suggest all scientists feel the same is just not true.
    I've touched on a few issues here: Although clearly I'm not a geneticists these are concerns I don't feel should be 'fought against'.
    On the other side is all our other science policy :
    Which I would suggest is much more positive about science than other parties and I dare to suggest is reasonably evolved.
    I do hope that the programme is a little more balanced, on GM and on the many other aspects of science policy. As a scientist I am sure you are going into it with a completely open mind ;-)


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