In a landmark shift, Finland’s Green Party unanimously adopted a positive stance on genetic engineering in agriculture at the party council’s meeting last weekend. Until now, Green parties around the world have used their political power to prevent the use and development of GMOs, even when the scientific consensus shows no negative impact on public health or the environment.
A field of barley, one of Finland's main agricultural crops. (Photo: Thomas/Pixabay)
In Finland, the party’s four-year-old agricultural position paper needed updating due to rapidly changing circumstances caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Rising fuel prices and dependence on fertilisers, imported from Russia, have highlighted the importance of food security and self-sufficiency.
The updated agricultural position paper now states that the Greens ‘support plant breeding methods which are compatible with sustainable development’. These include novel genomic techniques (NGTs) such as CRISPR which enable the plant’s genes to be edited more precisely. Researchers around the world are developing crop varieties that can reduce pesticide use and add nutritional value while making them more resilient to climate change. This is particularly promising for farmers and consumers in the Global South.
The Finnish Greens want European regulation of these new methods to be similar to the regulation of traditional breeding methods. Based on the scientific consensus, no increased risks are expected if crops are bred with NGTs. Current regulation places any GM crop under a rigorous regulatory scheme, leading to high costs, which hinders innovation and competition.
The initiative to update this position came from the Green Youth. Jami Haavisto, chairman of the youth department, said he’s very proud that the Greens are now the first party in parliament to propose a change of this magnitude on regulating gene technologies within the European Union. ‘By using CRISPR,’ Haavisto said, ‘we can modify the genome of the plant in a very controlled and targeted way.’
RePlanet supports the move. Sustainability is only possible if politicians listen to the science and make evidence-based regulations. Öko-Progressives Netzwerk, our member organisation in Germany, has initiated the #GiveGenesAChance campaign, which aims to give young researchers a voice and the chance to advocate for evidence-based sustainability.
Earlier this year, we were excited to see the Finnish Greens radically shift in its position on nuclear power in terms of combating climate change.