Scientific cherry-picking

Scientific cherry-picking

Blogger: Bill Wirtz
Scientific cherry-picking

"We Greens in the Bundestag stand for a rural-ecological agriculture", it says on the website of the Green parliamentary group. They advocate GM-free food, low-pesticide agriculture, more organic farming and regional marketing. The Greens take "stand for" seriously, as the party now demands nothing less than a complete ban on industrial agriculture. After years in which the organic shop meant a niche for consumers who wanted to shop differently, organic products should now become compulsory.

This is also making waves abroad. The Daily Telegraph writes that the image of the Greens as a "prohibition party" is returning. Why this is making waves is clear. The Greens are experiencing a constant influx of voters in Germany, and so they and their policies are to be taken as seriously as during their last participation in the federal government.

The Greens also want to ban the gene-editing, which is known through techniques such as CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats). With these systems, researchers can permanently alter genes in living cells and organisms and in future correct mutations at exact locations in the human genome and thus treat genetic causes of disease. The same technology can also be used in agriculture. The Greens see "genome editing" as the same as the question of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which are also banned.

Here, the Green position is no longer in line with that of its own youth. Already last year, the Green youth in Lower Saxony demanded "a new start for the debate on green genetic engineering without dogmas and a political argumentation on a scientific basis".

This year, too, there was new criticism. In the party resolution of the Green Youth Saxony-Anhalt it says at the end of March:

"Today it is of fundamental importance to rethink this historical position [a complete ban on GMOs] in order to tackle the coming global challenges."

The scientific remoteness of the Greens is surprising, since the environmentalists usually argue very scientifically about climate change. Even if the resulting policy proposals are radical and daring, they rigorously cite scientific studies as the basis for their demands. In agriculture, on the other hand, the party behaves dogmatically.

Those who defend GMOs and pesticides in science and politics must have been bought by large international corporations. Sceptics of climate change work the same way here: scientists who prove climate change must have been bought by some influential circles.

The scientific method and fact-based politics fall short of attention.

Where is all this going? Genome editing is important for further scientific progress, but recent decisions by the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg and the resistance of various environmental activists in Germany quickly put an end to its potential.

For farmers, this means less progress and thus the continued use of equally unpopular pesticides, or copper as a fungicide in organic farming. Meanwhile, research abroad is being accelerated. A further compartmentalisation in trade policy would then again be necessary in order to "protect" the paralysed farmers in Europe from foreign products.

Consumers would lack the choice after such bans. Organic or non-organic remains a major public debate. However, it should not be solved by abolishing conventional agriculture, but by education and innovation.

The Young Greens in Saxony-Anhalt write in one of their demands:

"We reject in principle the stirring up of irrational fears to reach a political goal, this applies also to genetic engineering."

That's a good start.


Picture is Creative Commons 0.0, Neha Deshmukh

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