If you think the Green Party is progressive or science based, think again


If you’re like me, you’ve found Elizabeth May’s debate appearances impressive. The Green Party has some worthwhile positions on important issues. As they are fond of pointing out these extend beyond issues related to the environment. 
With that said, there is a problem and it's a big one. 
The policies discussed in the debate and in interviews were reasonable and progressive. The policies related to the environment had a foundation in science. Unfortunately, all of the Green Party's policies were not discussed. Many of the policies in the Green platform represent the fears of conspiracy theorists and are not science based at all. Some policies are even counterproductive from an environmental and public health perspective. 
First, there is a question of priorities. It is no secret that environmentalists and nuclear power are not friends. Nuclear power is not without its dangers and it is necessary to store nuclear waste. It is not ideal from an environmental perspective but it is carbon neutral. 
According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, there are currently 437 nuclear plants operating worldwide. There are also 67 plants currently under construction. Imagine where carbon levels in the atmosphere would be now if environmentalists had gotten their way and all of those plants burned coal. 
The Green's policy on nuclear power is long and rambling. It reads as if an anti-nuke activist wrote it. It ignores new technology and it is not science based. To be sure, nuclear has it's drawbacks and limitations. It is not the singular answer to the world's energy problems. However, climate change is happening now and the world's carbon emissions are still going up. The priority at the moment should be reducing emissions, not idealistic dogma.

The next troubling issue is the Green Party's position on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). According to the Green Party's website, "genetically engineered (GE) organisms may pose a potentially serious threat to human health and the health of natural ecosystems." That is not position that the vast majority of scientists would embrace. 
In a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in January, 88 percent of scientists said the GM food was safe to eat. That means that the consensus that GMOs are safe is as strong as the consensus on climate change. A quick visit to Snopes.com will dispel most of the anti-GMO movement's favourite arguments and horror stories. Of course the public is not convinced of this. In that same survey only 37 percent of non-scientists said that GMOs were safe. 
The public is clearly not well informed on the issue however. In another survey released in January, over 80 percent of Americans said that they were in favour of labelling any food containing DNA. All food, genetically modified or not, contains DNA. 
In a National Post article on the Green Party Canadian-born Aaron Larsen, a Harvard post-doctoral fellow is quoted as saying “just to be clear, there has never been a single reputable, peer-reviewed study that has found any link between the consumption of genetically modified foods and adverse health effects."

The Green Party's position, again, ignores both the scientific literature and the environment. According to the United Nations, in order to make up for lost cropland and feed an increasing population, global food production must increase by 60 percent over the next 35 years. Without GMOs that will be nearly impossible.

In addition to being safe, GMOs will help the world respond quickly to changing environmental conditions as the impact of global warming begins to be felt. Without the ability to respond rapidly to drought or infestations we are much more likely that severe food shortages in the years to come.

From there the Green Party goes deep into tin-foil hat territory with a proposal to ban the use of fluoride. This is the same conspiracy theory that Stanley Kubrick mocked in "Dr. Strangelove" in 1964. According to just about every environmental and public health agency in the world including the EPA, Health Canada, the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, adding fluoride to drinking water is not only safe, but is probably lowering your dental bill without your having to do a thing.

Add to this list are the Green Party's campaigns against wi-fi, their flirtations with alternative medicine,  anti-feminist "Mens Rights Activists" and the 9-11 "truther" movement and a very different picture of the Greens begins to emerge.

Based on their debate performances and interviews, people could be forgiven for assuming that they are a party with sound policies based in science and reason. The strategy appears to be to have rational policies in the areas that people are likely to ask about. Policies further from the public radar can then be used to bulk up the Green Party's numbers by appeasing conspiracy theorists.

This is probably what Elizabeth May means when she says that the green party brings in new voters rather than taking votes from anyone.

While the party's policies on GMOs, fluoride, nuclear energy, alternative medicine and wi-fi aren't the first things asked about in an election, they are important. The Green's positions on these issues dispel the myth that all of their policies are based on science. They are, with the possible exception of the Conservatives, the most anti-science of the major political parties in Canada.

As Michael Kruse of Bad Science Watch said in that National Post article “I really think the Green Party is just doing the same things everybody else does, which is to make up an idea that matches with your ideology, and then go looking for evidence to support it.”

Contrary to popular opinion, the Green's are not a left-wing party or a progressive party. They are not a party based in science and reason. In reality, the Greens are a party of the paranoid lunatic fringe and people who look good in tin-foil hats. Rather than increasing their numbers in Parliament, voters should keep them as far from power as possible.

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