Brockie: Here's another topic for the science adviser

Stuff Science writer Bob Brockie challenges Sir Peter Gluckman, the PM's Chiuef  Science Advisor, to set the record straight on genetic modification.

OPINION: A couple of weeks ago, the Prime Minister's chief science advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, debunked the idea that traces of methamphetamine are a health hazard. He says there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support the idea.

Rather surprisingly, the government has taken the scientist's assertion on board and is keen to right the wrongs of previous policies.

Usually, scientific evidence goes in one government ear and out the other.

But this time it looks as though hundreds of wrongly evicted tenants might get some compensation and thousands more are relieved that they won't be thrown out of their homes.

Gluckman often urges the government and other public agencies to pay more attention to scientific evidence instead of basing policy on gut feelings, fashionable beliefs, needless fear, gossip, conspiracy theories, noisy fanatics, and shock-horror media headlines.

We now look forward to the day when the science advisor similarly debunks government and public attitudes towards genetic engineering.

In their recent substantial reviews of GE, the British Royal Society, the British Medical Association, and the American Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine, concluded that GE has never harmed anybody or any thing.

Indeed the societies claim that GE only does good. The world's 28 million GE farmers have increased their crop yields by 22 per cent, their incomes by 66 per cent, and reduced their use of pesticides by 37 per cent.

And, for that matter, over 60 000 grateful New Zealand diabetics inject themselves with GE insulin every day without complaints.

Claims that GE is a health hazard to man and beast, or that it degrades the soil or the environment, get no support from top scientific societies.

But this is not what we hear incessantly from GE-Free New Zealand and Greenpeace. Based on gut instinct and misinformation, these ill-informed luddites spread fear and loathing about genetic engineering.

They suppose that they occupy the high moral ground on these issues but are really shouting in a benighted abyss of ignorance.

So Dr Gluckman, it is time to step up and debunk the claims on GE. There is absolutely no scientific evidence to support these fear mongers.