Thursday, August 25, 2005

German Green Party

It's always interesting to see how other countries political climates sometimes match our own at times. In Germany for example, it appears that the German green party isn't going to get back into parliament. Nature has posted an article on the German Greens and how they stood with numerous issues in science. Some of it was good, such as increased funding for biodiversity, new energy sources and other projects but sometimes blind ideology got in the way of good science.

For example:

The same applies to plant biotechnology. Although Germany iswell positioned in plant genetics, the restrictive regulatory framework set up by K√ľnast makes it difficult to reap the benefits of basic research. Recently proposed liability rules are far stricter than anywhere else in the European Union and will deter investors. If the law passes, Germany could suffer the same fate in its crop trade as it did in the past with genetically engineered drugs. For example, despite its strong pharmaceutical industry, Germany has to import insulin.

Which is quite familiar in many ways to me. For example, here in New Zealand we lead the world in aspects of farming technology, animal genetics and environmental science. I believe we were the first to discover and improve the ability of certain bacteria to digest DDE (the dangerous form of the infamous insecticide DDT once it has sat in soil for a bit). Despite our 'clean' image that we portray overseas, there are vast dumps of this chemical buried all over certain places in New Zealand. These bacteria, engineered as they are, would be immensely useful in being able to break down and detoxify the DDE in the contaminated areas. Unfortunately, we are unable to reap the benefits of our own technology because of overly restrictive and completely idiosyncratic rules about releasing GE organisms (even if this organism has had no new genes added to it at all, merely a change in the genes regulation). These regulations are largely driven by the New Zealand Green Party, who have often demonstrated they don't really know much about the science of genetic engineering.

Interestingly enough, the Green party over here has a good chance of failing to get back into Parliament as well.