In a move sure to anger the hippies, Greens’ leader Richard di Natale wants to end The Greens’ longstanding opposition to the use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture.
In an article published in Fairfax’s The Land, Colin Bettles writes:
[Di Natale] 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.
Changes to GM policy are part of a wider push to “mainstream” the party in the lead up to this years federal election. Earlier in 2015 Di Natale sidelined the Greens’ most prominently left wing senator, Lee Rhiannon, in a portfolio reshuffle.
The sidelining of Rhiannon was a blow to the party’s NSW based left. A move on GM policy would be a blow to the remnants of the Green’s enviro-hippy roots.
Considered in isolation, an attack on the Greens current GM policy is hardly a bad thing. The policy is stupid.
Defenders of the Greens’ GMO policy will claim that it merely adopts the precautionary principle. In reality it wholesale condemns an entire branch of useful technological development on the basis of paranoid fantasies.
The Australian Greens believe that:
Genetically manipulated organisms (GMOs), their products, and the chemicals used to manage them pose significant risks to natural and agricultural ecosystems and human health.
Don’t be manipulating the genetics, you gotta keep it all natural man!
The important questions that arise from the development and use of biotechnology are not the existence of mythical “frankenfoods”, but rather its interaction with capitalist property relations. Who gets to ‘own’ this technology, who gets to use it, and for whose benefit is it deployed? These aren’t problems peculiar to GMOs, they’re the same questions relevant to all technological development under capitalism.
Anyway. Back from the tangent.
In isolation, the erosion of a bad GM policy might seem like good news. If the Greens were a healthy democratic organization, a bad GM policy could be debated and reconsidered. Left elements within the Greens could make the case for being critical of capitalist property rights in technology, rather than simply luddite.
But that is not what is happening. This change is not being led by the grass-roots, this is a change being imposed from above. The Greens are “mainstreaming”, there is an ongoing process of sidelining or jettisoning policy practice and people that are outside the bounds of what Australian capitalist democracy deems acceptable.
The quest for twenty percent is not about convincing another ten percent of the Australian population of the merits of Green ideas. It’s not about campaigns that will reach a wider layer of people, or building links with the working class. The Greens’ push for “the next ten percent” has always been about moderating policy and people; conforming to a more right-ward position in order to appear more ‘acceptable’.
The Greens leadership are wrong. Pushing right-ward until a wider layer of people feel it is ‘acceptable’ to vote Green will not deliver electoral success. Even if it would, the process of mainstreaming will (and in my opinion already has) destroy what few green social democratic aspirations those involved in the party might have had.
I know far too many comrades who identify as anarchist, anti-capitalist or socialist who still hold illusions in The Greens. You are not changing the Greens, you are being changed. Your efforts, however you direct them, are being channeled into the development and election of an increasingly right-wing bourgeoisie political party. If you stick around too much longer, you’ll wake up one day and realize you’ve become little more than blue-green shells of your former selves.
See also: Greens lurch to the right in reshuffle
Update: The ABC reports Richard Di Natale breaks with Greens’ policy on genetically modified crops, says argument lacks evidence.
Federal Greens leader Richard Di Natale has partially broken with his party’s policy, saying that he does not believe genetically modified crops pose a significant risk to human health.
The Australian has more detail, here are some interesting snippets with emphasis added:
The views of the moderate Greens leader, who is trying to broaden community support for his left-wing party, contradict longstanding Greens’ party policy that calls for a moratorium on growing any crops and organisms that have been genetically modified.
High praise from The Australian… Fools within the Greens will see growing mainstream media praise as evidence that a shift right-ward is worthwhile.
At the very end of the article:
Foodsafe Foundation director Scott Kinnear, a close friend of Senator Di Natale, was horrified at his decision to make his personal beliefs public without party consultation. [emphasis added]
An apt point from the defenders of the existing Greens GM policy, but with a fair dose of hilarious utter nonsense thrown in to boot:
“Richard might be coming from a medical position, but there is vast difference between the use of GM technology in medicine and in agriculture and Richard doesn’t seem to get that.”