Retiring National MP Jo Goodhew began her valedictory speech by addressing “the many peoples, all voices, all mountains, all rivers” whom she thanked for coming to support her.
This injection of animist sentiments belied the tribute she played to science.
She recalled her ministerial involvement in the food safety scare in 2014 sparked by a threat to contaminate infant and other formulas with 1080 and in a scare at Christmas 2015 caused by the contamination of imported frozen berries with hepatitis.
Almost every single one of those frozen products was already labelled with its country of origin. It is not so long ago that New Zealand apples were also contaminated by a worker with hepatitis A.
So the answer is health and food safety officials working closely to identify and trace food-borne illnesses fast. Excellent traceability systems on the part of producers are essential and COOLs are only a marketing tool that works when the origin has a great reputation, which is exactly what New Zealand has.
Ms Goodhew also recalled her work on developing the National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry which she said will significantly reduce the numbers of consents required each year.
And she took pride in the Government’s work in tackling allocation, reliability of supply, measuring quality, cleaning up poor-quality fresh water, requiring stock exclusion from waterways, and mapping a path to restore degraded waterways.
But most significantly, she said
“It is high time New Zealanders woke up to the importance of genetically modified organisms and our future in the fields of health, plant, and animal genetics, and, through that, environmental protection.
“Gene editing can help us cure cancers, eradicate wilding pines as well as four-legged pests, develop grasses that assist us to reduce methane emissions, and so much more.
“The debate has to be less about fear of the unknown, and more about safe and proven science.”
Ms Goodhew was first elected to Parliament as MP for Aoraki in 2005 and was elected as MP for Rangitata in 2008, 2011 and 2014.