Home > Oz Politics > Ingratitude and the Greens

Ingratitude and the Greens

September 7th, 2004

We’ve heard a lot from the conservative side of politics lately about how the Greens are kooks, Communists, Nazis, anarcho-syndicalists and so on (I’m quoting senior politicians and prominent columnists here, not RWDB bloggers).

So how is that a Liberal minority government in Tasmania managed to last two years relying on Green support? It wasn’t comfortable – minority governments rarely are – and the Liberals cut a deal with Labor to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. But if even half of what has been said in the last couple of weeks was true, a government relying on Green support wouldn’t last two weeks before it fell to pieces over some demand for compulsory vegetarianism or the like.

There was also a Labor-Green Accord government a few years before. This also failed, but over the traditional Green issue of forests, rather than any of the nonsense we have heard about lately.

There’s a chronology here from Bob Brown focusing on forest issues. Obviously, it’s not an unbiased viewpoints, but the basic facts about the governments and their duration are there.

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  1. d
    September 11th, 2004 at 10:19 | #1

    Thanks for your career advice.
    Which particular arguments that Imogen has raised are most seriously in need of still being dealt with, that I hav’nt addressed. I have several gigs of relevant files here collected over the last 15 years of this debate in Australia, and the scientific literature is very rich, so the discussion has much to offer and your website could be very good.

  2. Eric Vigo
    September 16th, 2004 at 19:34 | #2

    “Second, the use of 1080 is mostly in plantations, not in old growth forests.”

    Oh dear, you obviously havent looked at any records from DNRE in Victoria where 1080 is documented to have been sprayed. Particularily in East Gippsland, and the laying of bait (apparently to catch foxes) but getting many endangered species too. Sure, thats the nature of baiting, but combined with aerial bombardment with 1080, its disasterous for fauna.

    d & Luis, I must admit you have researched your side of the story far more than I have mine (only due to lack of focus on this issue in particular), but I havent seen anywhere a statement of WHY you so support GE technology, and why you believe it brings the best results.

    You will notice that Greens biased posters state why they support what they do, but I notice that you 2 jumped in with just arguements, almost ‘expecting’ people to know where you come from.

    Its something I notice in people who support something that is skewed towards conservative or right-wing governments, and those who feel multinational companies are fine. Its also about denegrating the intellegence of those who support the broad statements of why a corporation does what it does.

    Sure, its there to profit, but you havent said WHY you support its actions in profiting, and why that is necessarily a good thing.

    For me, multinational corporations use whatever they can get hold of to make a profit. If it does some good, and it reaps the biggest rewards, then thats a sideline benefit. If its the reverse, oh well.
    Be it the killing of innocent civilians (anti-oil activists in Nigeria against Shell) or the use of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (in the case of McLibel/McDonalds). They are variables that stand in the way of creating what they do.

    Its the removal of ethics and emotions which allows a cold hand to do what it wishes. This goes for governments that are left or right. So long as people and the planet are trashed or harmed greatly, its not great for the our future

    Oh, I can hear the cries – what are you doing living in the City, or, you eat their food,use their products what are you complaining about, and other such lines that avoid you standing up for what YOU believe in, which isnt stated.

    Sure this is general, and I am not investing a great deal of time in providing links & scientific referencing. I could, but that involves me investing a hell of a lot of time into this replying post, which I’m not into doing.

    But my main query is with most right-wingers (to use a general term) – why do you so avoid stating your love of multinationals & their practices? Why not write poems about GE technology? Why not organise protest marches to get Victoria to take on GE. Apparently, green zealots just have their ear over others (but not on issues like public transport, oh no, its freeway builders all the way). This ‘zealot’ stuff is just lazy writing.

    C’mon guys – dont you dream? Dont you have a vision for the planet that involves building what you want to see?

    What do you hope society will look like in 20 years time? No organics? No Greens parties? Mostly GE foods in the supermarkets? Organic shops stuck in the middle of nowhere, where no one can get to them? (meaning, no organic shops)

    Do you wish to see no activists working on anti-GE literature?
    (sure you would say they have no basis, so they will just fizzle out coz they are kooky, but that doesnt state what YOU want)

    C’mon make a true statement, rather than putting down someone else to back up what you want.

    Its almost as if you have no vision, and all you do is defend the status quo & use putdowns to prop yourself up

    No vision, or is everything fine as it is?
    If it isnt, what is it that isnt fine?

    If you only write this once in your life, do it now…

  3. Eric Vigo
    September 16th, 2004 at 19:48 | #3

    Also want to make a comment that, its fine using scientific literature to back up what you believe. That is fine, but it avoids the main reason why MNC use GE technology whichever way they wish.

    1) Power – money talks, especially billions over the third world
    2) Economics & Political

    Most Greens supporters who are anti-GE talk about things from a poltical/economic background.

    Science is abused by MNC, so are scientists. So science is not the main game in the GE debate, its tactics, philosophy of gene-technology companies, and the wider control of resources & the economy.

    This is usually where Greens ‘win’ the debate. Rightwingers ‘win’ the debate when they get specific about the mechanics of the technology.

    But in the end, science means bugger-all. You can pay people to write anything in your favour. Monsanto are great at that, just one of many companies.

    Print & publish a scientific document that is not favourable to a MNC, using their money, and dont expect the phone to ring again.

    Science? Nope. Politics.

    This, unfortuanely, is not covered in discussions. Because it involves seeing ourselves belonging to the planet, and not to our laptops. It involves long-range, visionary discussions, not specific logical arguements. It involves speaking that you are a part of the greater world, but also what you are doing to reduce your footprint.

    From what I see, GE technology incrases human footprints, rather than lessening them

    Becuase of scientific evidence? Nope, but agro-business which cares about itself/shareholders, and will do what it can to maximise that.

    This is why d & Luis’s posts are scientifically credible (from what I can see), but ethically devoid. Greens are still scientifically credible (not as much, but I havent read it all), but ethically rich.

    d & Luis, I understand your world to a degree. You may feel your mob runs the world, so why defend it. Its works for me, but your mob you support are effectively ‘psycho-paths’ (see The Corporation documentary for specifics). GE is psychopathically based in its source, but have money to pay people to service it so it continues its path.

    No matter now or later, you choose to give your support wholeheartedly to this mob (I guess you are rewarded for your support), which is fine for now, but in 50 years time, it will hit you

    Hey, I could have you guys all wrong. Maybe you believe in justice & treatment of the planet, and agree with the Greens in education, drugs, health, environment etc, but on GE you are strongly against the Greens. If so, I apologise, but I am guessing that this isnt the case.

    You wonder why the Greens are passionate (without prefacing it with a putdown of them). But whats your passion?

  4. Aaron
    September 7th, 2004 at 18:07 | #4

    Tasmania (“the basket case state”), has suffered from the very situation that you describe. Most of those with whom I grew up with have left. The reason? No jobs. I fully expect that they will do the same to the rest of Australia in they get the ballance of power in the senate. Perhaps the greens will achieve their desired population cuts by harming the economic prospects of young australians, thereby encouraging them to emigrate?

  5. Factory
    September 7th, 2004 at 18:41 | #5

    Aparantly the Greens are responsible for lowering the unemployment rate from about 8.5% to 6%. Wow, I sure hope they don’t do that to the rest of Australia, like, the sky would fall in or something.

  6. snuh
    September 7th, 2004 at 20:30 | #6

    aaron, you have offered no evidence to suggest that unemployment rose during times the greens were involved in government. insofar as your point might be rephrased as something along the lines of “no fulfilling job prospects” [as against "no jobs"], you have offered no evidence to suggest that this has anything at all to do with the greens.

  7. September 8th, 2004 at 00:05 | #7

    The greens holding the balance of power in WA has resulted in:

    1. Rejection of a proposal to develop a multi-million dollar tourism project in the Ningaloo area.

    2. Rejection of any lessening of restrictions on retail trading hours.

    3. Rejection of any lessening on restrictions on liquor licensing.

    (2+3 combining to make sure that WA has the most restrictive laws on either in Australia, and most of the developed world)

    4. A 5 year ban on any trials of GM produce in Western Australia.

    The WA greens are in favour of shutting down all industry on the Burrup Peninsula in order to protect aboriginal rock paintings. Businesses affected include the Woodside North West Shelf project and the Hamersley Iron Ore operation. They are two of the biggest employers in Western Australia.

    Yeah, we have nothing to fear from these people.

  8. Peter Murphy
    September 8th, 2004 at 02:04 | #8


    Just out of curiosity: what are the liquor laws in W.A.? Are we talking six o’clock swill?

    When I last visited Canada in 1996 I wasn’t too impressed with the licensing laws: closing at 1 or 2 seemed the norm. Blame the provincial governments. Of course, it was no surprise that Quebec had the best in the land.

  9. d
    September 8th, 2004 at 03:48 | #9

    Are you going to discuss the Kookyness of the Green influence on the Bracks Government in Victoria which has (to preserve inner city Green proLabor votes for people like Bronwyn Pyke)
    i) led to sackings of scientists involved in research on GM canola in Horsham because of the Green induced state GM technology ban effective for 10 years on GM canola:

    ii) how the Green induced GM ban in Victoria in the name of preserving the state’s so-called “GM-free Stance”
    is totally irrational as GM canola would have allowed a shift away from the currently unsed triazine tolerant canola,
    which presently encourages use of atrazine herbicide, banned in Europe

    iii) How the dairy industry in Victoria uses already GM soy imports and GM cottonseed as animal feed, ALREADY I said, but the VIC Government tries to pretend we need a GM ban to “preserve the state’s GM free stance” and to preserve the dairy industry from accidental contamination with traces of canola seed, all the result of Green politics.

    iv) How GM cotton has enabled significant reductions in pesticide use in QLD/NSW and lower pesticide residues in the Namoi river the last two years but Greens still want to stop this technology.
    v) Third world farmers can greatlly benefit from GM technology but the Greens want to stop it
    vi) 2 billion people will be added to global population by about 2050 and we’lll have to feed them on less global farmland due to city growth, but Greens dont see any need to promote GM technology to address this land usage challenge (do the sums JQ a major LAND USAGE issue)
    vii) most (if not all) of the Green discussions (for example at Greenpeace’s websites) of genetics are scientifically shonky
    vi) green induced bans on GM maize in Africa encourage continued use of mycotoxin prone conventional grain, so in the name of protecting people from Green promoted imaginary dangers we get more liver cancer, birth defects and so on in poor Africans as a result of Green kookyness (do the literature searches on Medline using keywords like Africa, fuminosins , if you can’t Ill send you the references)

    All this evidence of Green environmental kookyness and moral incompetance, which I’m happy to document a great length,

    And in these circumstances Q, you remain, demonstrably from your recent posts, unable to offer the same critical skepticism to the Greens as you are able to display to say – any non-social democrat economic view,
    Q, I remain unimpressed. You have serious intellectual blinkers despite being an economic scholar. Please respond to the factual issues rather than giving us BLATHER about journalists you don’t like as a substitute for argument.

  10. September 8th, 2004 at 04:47 | #10

    “Just out of curiosity: what are the liquor laws in W.A.? Are we talking six o’clock swill?”

    It’s not so much the hours, although they are pretty bad.

    1am for a standard pub, 12 midnight Sundays. Bottle Shops are only allowed to open until 10pm. Bottle Shops not attached to pubs can not open Sunday at all.

    Some long-established pubs can apply for a late licence extension to 3am on Friday and Saturday nights.

    Cabarets (Nightclubs) can open until 6am, as to what defines a cabaret I have no idea, there aren’t very many of them.

    The real problem with liquor licensing is this thing we have called the “public needs test”. Basically it states that to even apply for a liquor license, you have to demonstrate to the government that there is a public demand for another pub in the particular area you want to open it.

    There is also a clause which lets any party located in the surrounding area to lodge a protest against the license. So what we have is a situation where whenever someone applies for a license, every other liquor outlet in the surrounding suburbs lodges a protest and it is rejected.

    In effect, this means that the number of liquor licenses is fixed. You can’t get one until another pub closes down, which never happens, because like any scarce commodity, they have a tradable value. Unless you have recently opened a new hotel and want to open a bar inside it, you’re fresh out of luck.

    The existing pubs make money hand over fist and treat the punters like absolute dirt, because there is simply no competition. A liquor license here is like a Taxi plate, a license to print money.

    I have blogged extensively about the situation here, here, here here, here and here.

  11. September 8th, 2004 at 04:53 | #11

    Or, instead clicking on the individual links, just try this:

    All post featuring keyword “liquor”. A couple aren’t relevant but the rest are there.

  12. Carlos
    September 8th, 2004 at 06:59 | #12

    I just love the “real” arguments put forward!
    Those “third wold farmers” can not even pay for the seed and the patented IP, that used to be cheaper or free! They would benefit much more from basic improvements in living standards, improved access to markets, and reduced barriers and subsidies in the US, EU, Japan, etc.

    As far as GM products are concerned, our major markets DO NOT want or accept GM grains, beef, etc. The highest value added margins, come from “DIFFERENTIATION” in quality, purity, and even organic products. Just ask the Japanese!

    That’s why our quarantine regulations are a huge advantage when faced with crises like mad-cow-disease and the chicken flu epidemics. For regions like Taz and NZ their reputations are a stake: DIFFERENTIATION + CLEAN/PURE image.

    GM foods are not only “COMMERCIALLY” risky, but also restrict farmers to source seeds from single major suppliers, while weakening the bargaining position and independence of all our primary producers. Let’s not even talk about those disputed claims about reducing usage of pesticides/fertilisers and production ratios: for every actual study (none provided!), there are just as many refuting those claims.

    Eventually we may get there, but for now I’d be happier with OUR risks being minimised and mistakes made elsewhere.

    Just like in most fast evolving tech, the “first mover advantage” is hugely exaggerated: the only ones to get rich in a gold rush are the shovel makers and the speculators. We’d do much better by concentrating our efforts in getting a good ROI with R&D!

    Ultimately, the issues are commercial, just like the FTA. And they are not in our advantage! Places like the CSIRO can develop OUR OWN technology and commercialise it here and for exports. Let’s keep OUR IP and not become just “users” or “consumers” of foreign tech. That’s exactly what’s happened in the ICT area, and now is a major source of our trade imbalance… hmmm!

  13. John Quiggin
    September 8th, 2004 at 07:03 | #13

    d, none of the articles I’ve seen in the last few weeks even mentioned the GM issue. If they had, I would have conceded that this is a valid point of criticism. As you’re well aware I don’t agree with the Greens on this issue.

    Yobbo, it seems a long leap from liquor licensing laws to the kind of thing we’ve been hearing lately. And presumably these laws were sustained for many decades by Liberal governments with a majority in both houses. What’s your opinion of these governments and their political successors ?

  14. Carlos
    September 8th, 2004 at 07:48 | #14

    That bunch of commie loving radicals from channel 9 organised an interview with the devil himself!

    Yet meanwhile… in the real world… the mainstream wants to listen and really ask questions, not just scream hysterically:

    - Bob Brown was interviewed last Sunday 5th September by Laurie Oakes on the Sunday program on channel 9. http://sunday.ninemsn.com.au/sunday/political_transcripts/article_1635.asp

    - On Wednesday 8th September, Bob is addressing the National Press Club. His speech will be broadcast live on ABC TV at 1pm. http://www.npc.org.au/speakers.htm

    - Also, Bob Brown and senate candidate for NSW John Kaye will speak on the logging threat to Tassie’s ancient Tarkine and Styx forests and introduce a short audiovisual presentation on forests…
    When: Wed, Sep 15 @ 7.30 pm
    Where: Ton Mann Theatre, 136 Chalmers St. Surry Hills

    I’d love to see hoWARd try to engage with the public, just half as much… not very likely! The last time he tried he was confronted even in his own electorate!

  15. Aaron
    September 8th, 2004 at 09:50 | #15

    I dont think “factory” and “snuh” read my post. People have (until recently) been LEAVING Tasmania. Do you think that this will lower unemployment? Tasmania had negative population growth while the greens had the ballance of power. Remember that the greens have opposed major economic developments in the state eg the wesley vale pulp mill. Dont you think that this would also have a negative impact on employment? Furthermore, what do you people think green obstructionism has done to investor confidence?

  16. d
    September 8th, 2004 at 10:10 | #16

    Are you claiming that GM cottons havent greatly reduced chemical pesticide use in Australia and elswhere where they have been used, and that deaths from pesticide poisening in China havnt been reduced because of GM cottons? I’ve seen the latest data presented by Rick Roush, and heard first hand from him of his experiences in India and China that say otherwise. I’ve also just finished reading Crossan and Kennedy’s Sydney University report “A snapshot of Roundup Ready Cotton in Australia”. What do you think of it?

    And this is the really interesting point: the latest favourable Sydney University report on herbicide tolerant was prefigured at a Bureau of Rsource Economics Conference 15-16 th March 1995 ATTENDED BY ACFs BOB PHELPS (here listed as a workshop attendee in the book “Herbicide-resistant Crops and pastures in Australian Farming systems” DPI Canberra ed G D McClean and G Evans, so the latest SU report that GM RRR cotton is evironmentally beneficial IS NO SURPRISE, and FOR ( years BOB PHELPS, anti-GM actist extraordinaire, has never mentioned the work at this conference he attended that augered an environmental benefit of herbicide tolerant cotton( and other Gm herbicide tolerant crops), even though in working all that time for the ACF he was ostensively trying to improve Australias environment.
    ( key book pages p89ff, paper by G W Charles et al on Cotton)
    Why Carlos do you think Bob and other Greens have been so SILENT. Can’t they read?

    And Carlos, when Jenny Thomson was out in Australia from South Africa just recently she mentioned that 80% of (Southern) African maize farmers already buy their seed. Similarly there are several commercial sources of GM seed in India. It does seem that in practice even poor farmers can gain higher incomes by buying seed. I wouldnt dismiss this opportunuity for people who are currently poor gaining more income.

    So tell us Carlos, which particular studies of herbicide use and pesticide use are you refreerring to?. And while you’re at it why not review chemical industry total sector sales in the US versus EU sales backing the story that GM decreases chemical use. And yes, I am aware of Chuck Bedbrook’s studies always selectively cited by anti-GM groups , but also I’ve read the refutations and objections against his work, but strangely these are never cited by the anti-GM lobbists.

  17. michaelh
    September 8th, 2004 at 10:19 | #17


    My understanding was that the population decline in Tasmania had been a long-term trend. So while this may have been the case while the Greens had the balance of power, it’s quite a different matter to attribute cause.

    Are you saying that it was caused by the Greens?

  18. Paul
    September 8th, 2004 at 10:46 | #18

    I myself had a surge of nostalgia on hearing John Anderson’s comments comparing the Greens to the commies. Shows how an ex-King’s boy can still work the rednecks in the top paddock.

    Mind you, he doesn’t have the real world credentials of Blackjack, or the class of Rubber Dougie.

    Unfortunately Tassie has been an economically disadvantaged state since Federation, and is destined to remain so. Giblin and others recognised this almost eighty years ago.

    The sandgropers have more potential, that’s why we’ve got the SAS over there watching them.

  19. September 8th, 2004 at 10:55 | #19

    Talking about the Greens’ position on anything is quite difficult, because the label ‘Greens’ covers an incredibly diverse arrange of positions.

    In Tasmania the Greens have been shifting positions all the time concerning environmental issues. As an example, stop old growth logging in exchange for plantations. Now they do not want plantations either. If you read their forest policy, they now want to stop all work on native forest but work with minor species. They supported wind turbines but now they are ambivalent about them. They would like to increase the reliance on tourism (that industry with suppossedly no environmental impact, ha!) but they do not want to have facilities for tourists. They want to get rich tourists but do not offer them a cafe latte.

    In addition we have bans on GM crops (except for poppies), although their use would reduce the reliance on herbicides and pesticides. There is no native vegetation in Tasmania that could cross with GM crops. Of course some people will argue about the clean image of Tasmania and New Zealand. If you know the environmental history of both places you will understand that the image is quite different from reality. Thus, you are trying to exploit a lie.

    Their position is in general expecting a free lunch: economic activity with no impact on the environment and on society. They will not find that and meanwhile they keep opposing any attempt to generate economic activity in the State. In Tasmania we have reserved 40% of the State land, 40% of the forests, 65% of the old growth forests and this is still not enough for the Greens. They would like to live in a Park, meanwhile we still have more people leaving the State than the ones arriving.

    The Greens are trying to put forward a series of false dilemmas: forestry or tourism, GM crops or crop diversity. The fact is that there are plenty of examples that show that it is possible to have both. The Tahune airwalk in Southern Tasmania is a tourism success despite being located next to forest operations. The poppies crops are economically viable and have not caused environmental chaos. Unfortunately for the Greens, the world is not black and white.

  20. Paul Norton
    September 8th, 2004 at 11:33 | #20

    Luis, here in Queensland we’ve proven that it is possible to have forestry and tourism without native forest logging, under the South-East Queensland Forests Agreement. This was the product of consensus between the State Labor Government, the main environmental organisations and the Queensland Timber Board, with the only opposition coming from Pauline Hanson and the Australian Workers Union. We’ve also demonstrated that ending native forest logging in places such as the Far North Wet Tropics and Fraser Island is overwhelmingly positive for aggregate economic and employment outcomes – according to a personal communication from one economist specialising in eco-tourism, it has led to a tenfold increase in regional economic activity. If it works in Queensland, it can work in Tasmania.

    As for the criticisms of the WA Greens’ opposition to more liberal licensing laws, it is worth remembering that by far the worst illicit drug problem in Australia is the sale and consumption of liquor to under-aged and intoxicated drinkers. It is estimated that in the United States, sales of alcohol to underage and intoxicated purchasers accounts for half of all liquor sales. As Australia’s per capita alcohol consumption is higher than in the US, it is reasonable to assume that more than half of our liquor trade is illicit. Criticism of the WA Greens for maintaining restrictive laws in this area sits oddly with certain other claims made recently about the Greens’ drug policies.

  21. Eric Vigo
    September 8th, 2004 at 11:55 | #21

    This is too good to pass by:

    I’m no expert on GM, having dipped out of a lot of the debate due to other committments in my life, but here goes:
    - Monsanto has ordered about 150 scientific reports on various GM products (ie plants). Over 90 of them are critical & cite that they fail within the first year. These were hidden from public view, and the scientist were not offered any further work

    Talking on anything that has to do really with transnational profits, if you are a scientist, and most are employed by TNCs to do research for them, is that you publicise the company line & keep your job, or you are on the outer.

    Monsanto is in gene technology, along with Aventis & other companies, due to
    • control of the genome, and therefore, control over life
    • engineered political concentration of most govt around the world
    • the ability to control third world farming

    I would not directly dismiss the point that is a big one in your arguement, that GE technology saves farmers in the third world, and that they are buying seed anyway. Yes, that is true.

    But why there is such strident support for GE technology beats me (solidarity with Monsanto, fists in the air maybe), but a lot of independent (yes, independent) research by Steiner organisations, on the ground, into biodynamics has shown yields to increase up to 40% in selected Victorian farms, while farms around suffered the full impact of the drought.
    Not ALL farms will be saved from drought if they go bio-dynamic, but there has been positive results from bio-dynamics

    If you have read this far, I would like to make a point that I find irritatingly repetitive by those who are anti-green, and this is probably my most important point –

    that Greens policies arent argued point for point, they are slammed as one big ABSTRACT grouping, and given a name.
    Kooky, Communist, Nazi, Dangerous.

    Sure, the benefits of GE is covered, and those are valid points if proven to be correct, but their policies arent treated unbiased.
    It ultimately helps keep us dumb.
    People are checking out the Greens sites & making up their own minds, probably the first election where this is happening at an increased level.
    This is what would scare a lot of right-wingers who are just into power – like the Howards of this generation – if pepole educate themselves, they step outside of fear.

    Oh, also, why I dont like GE technology, is the direction it is held
    Compaines pile 100s of millions of dollars into it, they want a profit from it. To own the blueprint for life, is VERY VERY profitable.
    If GE was used to help aid nature, then I would consider it seriously.
    But its not, and natural/organic methods of crop health, soil health, environmental equilibrium and yeild results need funding to carry out research, and since you make money patenting & redesigning nature, that is where the $ goes.
    Who does the research on organics? Associations & experiments with individual farmers. And that is a slow process.

  22. Luis
    September 8th, 2004 at 13:00 | #22

    Eric, I would say that Monsanto — and any other biotechnology company — is into GE because there is an expectation of profit. That is the reason for any company -transnational or not- to be in business. I would say that GMOs are not inherently more dangerous than other crops, and in fact they are more thoroughly tested than any crops produced by traditional breeding methods.

    You are somewhat repeating slogans. Companies do not own the ‘blueprint of life’ as a whole, but only useful DNA modifications into specific organisms. In addition, GMOs can be used to make more profitable crops, to grow them under adverse conditions or to add useful things (vitamins, pesticides, etc) in crops. Thus there is no implicit political aim in the technology, but it is the final use that dictates any political connotation.

    Paul, the Tasmanian RFA allows harvesting native forest. The idea that tourism will increase because there is no forestry activity is mere speculation. In fact, tourism in Tasmania has dramatically increased during the last 5 years despite the increase of forestry activity. So, this would somewhat contradicts the direction of your assumption.

    I do disagree with Green policies not because they are ‘Kooky, Communist, Nazi, Dangerous’, but because I consider they will not deliver the expected benefits. I also disagree in many cases with the Green diagnostic of the current environmental situation and I consider that they have a fundamentalist point of view that does not fit with my (mostly libertarian) point of view.

  23. September 8th, 2004 at 13:45 | #23

    Yobbo, it seems a long leap from liquor licensing laws to the kind of thing we’ve been hearing lately.

    It’s not a long leap, John. WA and Tasmania are the only states to have suffered under green rule, and I’m just pointing out what the rest of you have to look forward to if they do win a senate majority anywhere else.

    And presumably these laws were sustained for many decades by Liberal governments with a majority in both houses. What’s your opinion of these governments and their political successors ?

    Yes, but let’s not compare apples with oranges. These laws were sustained by Liberal and Labor governments at a time when the whole of Australia had similar laws. The whole of Australia has since deregulated, EXCEPT Western Australia, despite being offered a $50 million bribe by the federal government to deregulate in the areas specified.

    We now retain the most draconian liquor licensing laws in the country, thanks to the greens. Their liberal view on drugs only applies to the ones they like (Ecstasy, Heroin, etc). As far as alcohol and tobacco are concerned, they are bigger puritans than Fred Nile.

  24. Paul 2
    September 8th, 2004 at 13:46 | #24

    The problem with GM food is not that it’s poisonous but that each patented strain is potentially a monopolised monoculture.
    Unless measures are taken by governments, monopoly profits can be extorted by the patent holder, who can stoop to such tactics as sueing farmers onto whose land GM seed has blown. As with big pharma, national sovereignty needs to be asserted to prevent these excesses.
    Unless care is taken, the potential exists for a national crop to become too dependent on a particular strain, with the potential to lose the lot if it turns out to be fatally deficient in resisting some new virus or predator. Another reason for government involvement – not to ban but to control.
    And sure, most tourists are satisfied with token world heritage experiences, and want their latte, and we could probably make a lot by turning the west coast of Tassie into a scenic golf course, but…
    The Greens may be extreme, but they force the major parties to take some important issues seriously. They might otherwise be tempted to take the corporate donations and do nothing.

  25. Carlos
    September 8th, 2004 at 13:54 | #25

    d and Luis, the fact that a useful tool is used or misused does depend on political and economic decisions. A lot of people are arguing that politics or economics SHOULD NOT be the only concern here. Other policy implications are just as relevant, if not more.

    The potential for risks is so huge that no one will provide insurance for it: the cost is undetermined, not enough information, externalities are almost impossible to quantify and/or contain and we do give away a major control of our basic food production to even bigger companies than the huge pastoral companies that control it now.

    Your arguments here, remind me of that lame well known joke: “how does an economist open a can of beans without a can opener?”

    I won’t even get started with the IP and sovereignty issues… Most economist simply don’t have a blooming idea! Just see the SMH’s Selling off a slice of our country” by that tree-hugging-hippy-commie-pinko-bastard Ross Gittins:
    “To the Americans,the deal is about something most Australian businesspeople don’t take much interest in – intellectual property rights (patents, copyright and trademarks). Copyright covers things such as books, music, recordings, movies, computer games and software. Patents cover a multitude of mechanical inventions, but also medical drugs and aspects of computer software.”

    “The US is by far the world’s largest exporter of goods and services with intellectual property (IP) embodied in them. It rightly believes that the production and export of IP is where its future prosperity lies..”

  26. September 8th, 2004 at 14:05 | #26

    Their liberal view on drugs only applies to the ones they like (Ecstasy, Heroin, etc).

    Turning this around, your opposition (indeed the yellow-bellied attitude of both major parties) to the Greens is based on the drugs you like. If you want to turn this into a debate on the negative effects on society (if you even believe “society” exists – I wouldn’t put it past a Liberal) of alcohol and tobacco versus cannabis and ecstasy, you’re getting yourself in deep, murky water.

    Now I’m going outside for a fag.

  27. Luis
    September 8th, 2004 at 14:30 | #27

    Paul 2, “The problem with GM food is not that it’s poisonous but that each patented strain is potentially a monopolised monoculture.”
    Any crop variety can be protected through patents or other barriers, without the need to have a GMO component on it. Thus, your argument seems to be against patenting rather than GMOs per se. As I see it, people opposing GMOs have more of a problem with the current economic model — and large corporations — than with the technology as such (which is used as an excuse).

    I accept that intellectual property issues will become even more important, but that is already an issue without GMOs in the agenda. However, I do not buy the sovereignity argument; it sounds more like trying to keep a romantic notion of autarky alive rather than anything else.

  28. Paul Norton
    September 8th, 2004 at 15:15 | #28


    “the Tasmanian RFA allows harvesting native forest.”

    Whereas the SEQFA does not, yet still provides for a viable, job-maintaining forest products industry which doesn’t destroy old-growth forests, threaten endangered species or poison wildlife. Why can’t Tasmania achieve a win-win outcome similar to what Queensland has done?

    “The idea that tourism will increase because there is no forestry activity is mere speculation.”

    It is *not* mere speculation. Tourism and other economic activity has increased in the Far North Wet Tropics, Fraser Island & Great Sandy region, and SEQ precisely because the general public places a high value on conserved and sustainable forest ecosystems.

    “In fact, tourism in Tasmania has dramatically increased during the last 5 years despite the increase of forestry activity. So, this would somewhat contradicts the direction of your assumption.”

    Apart from the fact that many of the tourists might be mainland forest blockaders, overall tourist activity is affected by a range of factors including the state of the economy and the discretionary income people have for interstate and international tourism. Important questions here are: (a) whether the level of tourism in Tasmania would be as high if it hadn’t been for the reservation of 40% of the State’s land and 65% of the old growth forests (I say it wouldn’t be – just imagine Tasmania today without the South-West World Heritage Area); (b) whether the level of tourism in Tasmania would be higher if the Styx, Tarkine and other remaining old-growth forest was conserved (I say it would be).

  29. Luis
    September 8th, 2004 at 15:45 | #29

    Paul, Greens argue down here that plantation forestry will still “…destroy old-growth forests, threaten endangered species or poison wildlife.” For one, there is probably not enough land to sustain industrial plantations without making some more room (cutting native forest). Second, the use of 1080 is mostly in plantations, not in old growth forests.

    “Why can’t Tasmania achieve a win-win outcome similar to what Queensland has done?”
    The situation down here is much more polarised than in Queensland. You have probably read about the WWF blueprint for Tasmania’s forests and how it was rejected by most local conservation groups (excepting the Tasmanian Conservation Trust). In my opinion, the Greens depend on maintaining conflict for political purposes; thus, no conflict implies no votes. So, it is not in their best interest to negotiate, and that is one of the main reasons I don’t like them much.

    On terms of tourism, you are certainly exaggerating the number of mainland forest blockaders (which are a pretty small group anyway) ;p Again, the answer to your questions is ‘who knows?’; you are just speculating. Most surveys of tourists coming to the state do not mention forestry as a major issue for coming or not coming down here.

  30. Rabbit
    September 8th, 2004 at 16:23 | #30


    I’d say that Qld has more restricitive Liquor Store laws that WA and we’ve never had the Greens hold the balance of power. In Qld you can’t even open a bottle shop unless you own a pub and the bottle shop is within 5km(?) of the pub. I think you’re restricted to one liquor store (off-site) per pub which is why Woolies and Coles own so many pubs in Qld – to have liquor retail they need to own pubs. This without a green in sight.

    And anyway why blame the greens for WA’s laws? You’ve had Liberal majorities in both houses, not to mention Labor and Liberal often pass legisation in a bipartisan way no matter who has the balance of power.

  31. d
    September 8th, 2004 at 16:48 | #31


    I’m still waiting for you to document the assertions you made about chemical use increasing with GM crops (see my last post), and also to provide some documentation about your reason for saying there are huge risks with GM since gene movement is the way in which natural evolution occurs- why are the GM risk any different for laboratory evolution compared to natural evolution. The US National Academy of sciences has recently issued a report which concluded that the chances of unexpected outcome from GM are in the same range as for natural breeding.

  32. d
    September 8th, 2004 at 17:07 | #32

    Your comments about clean image and quaranteen are interesting, but “clean image” has in the end to be based on policies where there is demonstrable evidence that environmental quality and objective cleanliness are improved. The way Australian antiGM decisions were made by state governments there is no connection between government edict and objective measures of cleanness. Gm canola would have reduce atrazine herbicide load in the same way that glyphosate tolerant cotton has delivered objectively measured cleanness to cotton farms (as explained by the Sydney Univ report). An the whole point of recent discoveries that mouldy corn is dangerous is that GM corn is objectively cleaner than conventional corn, let alone organic produce.

    To the extent that organic produce is damaged more by insects, it is more likely to suffer mouldyness and thus contain mycotoxins, so “organic” in itself is no argument that mycotoxins are lower, quite the reverse.

    And yes Green policies are killing poor people in Africa and causing birth defects by blocking access to cleaner GM corn, so Green is not objectively=clean

  33. d
    September 8th, 2004 at 17:25 | #33

    Environ Health Perspect. 2001 May;109 Suppl 2:239-43.

    Discovery and occurrence of the fumonisins: a historical perspective.

    Marasas WF.

    Programme on Mycotoxins and Experimental Carcinogenesis, Medical Research
    Council, Tygerberg, South Africa. [email protected]

    This article describes the events leading to the discovery of the fumonisins in
    South Africa in 1988 and highlights the first 10 years (1988-1998) of fumonisin
    research. The predominant fungus isolated from moldy corn implicated in a field
    outbreak of equine leukoencephalomalacia (ELEM) in South Africa in 1970 was
    Fusarium verticillioides (F. moniliforme). This fungus was also prevalent in
    moldy home-grown corn consumed by people in high-incidence areas of esophageal
    cancer (EC) in the Transkei region of South Africa. Culture material on corn of
    F. verticillioides strain MRC 826, which was isolated from moldy corn in
    Transkei, was shown to cause ELEM in horses, porcine pulmonary edema (PPE)
    syndrome in pigs, and liver cancer in rats. A short-term cancer
    initiation/promotion assay in rat liver was used to purify the carcinogen(s) in
    the culture material. These efforts finally met with success when fumonisins B1
    and B2 novel mycotoxins with cancer-promoting activity in rat liver, were
    isolated from culture material of F. verticillioides MRC 826 at the Programme on
    Mycotoxins and Experimental Carcinogenesis of the Medical Research Council in
    Tygerberg, South Africa. Following the elucidation of the chemical structure of
    the fumonisins, these carcinogenic mycotoxins were shown to occur naturally in
    moldy corn in Transkei. Shortly thereafter, high levels of fumonisins in the
    1989 U.S. corn crop resulted in large-scale field outbreaks of ELEM and PPE in
    horses and pigs, respectively, in the United States. Subsequently the fumonisins
    were found to occur naturally in corn worldwide, including corn consumed as the
    staple diet by people at high risk for EC in Transkei and China. These findings,
    together with the fact that the fumonisins cause field outbreaks of
    mycotoxicoses in animals, are carcinogenic in rats, and disrupt sphingolipid
    metabolism, have resulted in much worldwide interest in these compounds during
    the first 10 years after the discovery of the fumonisins in 1988.

  34. d
    September 8th, 2004 at 17:38 | #34

    GM corn is actually cleaner.
    Whose credibility is on the line with these and many other results and who is trying to supress them?- could it be the anti-Gm movement and Greens will look even more kooky when journalists and the public get to understand the implications of these tests?

    J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Feb 13;50(4):728-31.

    Fungal growth and fusarium mycotoxin content in isogenic traditional maize and
    genetically modified maize grown in France and Spain.

    Bakan B, Melcion D, Richard-Molard D, Cahagnier B.

    Laboratoire de Microbiologie et Technologie Cerealieres, Institut National de la
    Recherche Agronomique (INRA), Nantes, France.

    Fungi of the genus Fusarium are common fungal contaminants of maize and are also
    known to produce mycotoxins. Maize that has been genetically modified to express
    a Bt endotoxin has been used to study the effect of insect resistance on fungal
    infection of maize grains by Fusarium species and their related mycotoxins.
    Maize grain from Bt hybrids and near-isogenic traditional hybrids was collected
    in France and Spain from the 1999 crop, which was grown under natural
    conditions. According to the ergosterol level, the fungal biomass formed on Bt
    maize grain was 4-18 times lower than that on isogenic maize. Fumonisin B(1)
    grain concentrations ranged from 0.05 to 0.3 ppm for Bt maize and from 0.4 to 9
    ppm for isogenic maize. Moderate to low concentrations of trichothecenes and
    zearalenone were measured on transgenic as well as on non-transgenic maize.
    Nevertheless, significant differences were obtained in certain regions. The
    protection of maize plants against insect damage (European corn borer and pink
    stem borer) through the use of Bt technology seems to be a way to reduce the
    contamination of maize by Fusarium species and the resultant fumonisins in maize
    grain grown in France and Spain.

  35. imogen
    September 8th, 2004 at 17:55 | #35

    Argentina was the first country to be used as a “great GM Crop” experiment, where GM soya has been planted on the bulk of Argentina’s arable land.

    The devestating impacts – environmentally, socially and economically – were reported in that paragon of commie-pinko thinking, the New Scientist, in an article titled “Argentina’s Bitter Harvest”


    As the country with the longest history of G crops, it provides the clearest evidence yet of the clear negatives associated with GM crops.

    What pro-GM pundits also don’t want to admit is that in this case, humanity hasn’t got a clue what it’s getting into. More and more genetic research is showing that genes don’t act in isolation, their relationship and expression is just as much related to their position on the chromosone as it is to their individual structure. Yet GM crop technology still operates and propogandises along the lines of ‘simple’ slicing and splicing of individual discrete genes for desired results.

    A much-overlooked issue on this thread is that there has *never* been a long-term study done on the potential health implications of GM food on human populations; yet evidence from scientists who have blown the whistle suggests that DNA fragmentation from GM crops occurs at far higher rates than naturally-derived crops, and has been found to have a direct correlation to cancerous growths in mice. A similar impact has been seen with intensive fish-farming, where excessive inbreeding and mutation has led to waste DNA leaking into surrounding ecosystems, resulting in high levels of cancerous growths and mutation in other species. DNA can and does jump species if it is not stable, and artificially derived genes are not stable.

    Finally, the issue of IP monopoly for profit, control of the global crops and seeds and the loss of seed biodiveristy and adaptation has catastrophic implications. One of the biggest impacts of the green revolution was the loss of rice seed banks in SE Asia, leaving comunities totally exposed to adverse climatic conditions, and entirely beholden to seed & fertiliser sellers. The maintenance of heritage seed varieties to ensure maximum genetic diversity is paramount if humanity is to survive climate change, and on the more mundane level, normal climate fluctuations and needs to plant previously unused areas for agriculture. The key to survival on this planet is genetic diversity, and this is exactly what GM crops aim to remove with our most important foods; and place an increasing reliance on pesticides and herbicides as weeds and pests adapt.

    This has been openly admitted by Monsanto company reps – they know that none of this will matter if they can successfully manipulate their crops into countries, because it ensures instant reliance on the next GM ‘miracle’ once the old seed banks are gone.

    GM crops is the same scenario of the Green Revolution multiplied, and with far more potentially devestating environmental results. Those who are rabidly pro-GM need to step back and consider the dubious ethics of countries like the USA essentially trying to blackmail African nations into taking GM crop aid, forcing them into dependence on GM hybrids – instant monoply for US companies.

    And those who like to posit that it was those nasty Greens who talked governments about of taking GM aid demonstrate a breath-taking racism in ignoring the fact that leading scientists, social thinkers and economists in the third world have been rejecting the economic monopoly and environmental and social catastrophe represented by GM crops for years.

  36. d
    September 8th, 2004 at 18:02 | #36

    You mentioned great risks with GM foods but didnt say what they were. No evidence was supplied by you. I’ve just posted summaries two of many scientific studies available proving there are great risks to the health of poor people in Africa and China who are left to eat mouldy non-GM corn.
    You raised the risk issue and claimed we should halt GM crops because of some undocumemented risk. I gave you scientic proof that non GM corn is a definite cause of cancer related illness. There is evidence of a risk of birth defects and several epidemiology studies documenting high rates of cancers in Africa and China associated with these risks.
    Explain to me, anyone reading this post, why the Greens are not morally corrupt or at least “kooky” for promoting this situation in Africa and why, if the hypothetical risks of GM food are supposedly so bad, why these actual risks of convential food are not worse and why organic corn is not an even far worse risk than either gm or conventional , because of its susceptibility to insect damage and consequently mould, and why, if we use the Green movement’s own standards of “Precaution” why it shouldnt be banned immediately?

  37. imogen
    September 8th, 2004 at 18:07 | #37

    There are no concrete studies on the potential impacts of GM crops on human health because long-term studies have been successfully represed.

    Your citing of the health risks of mouldy corn to ‘prove’ that GM corn is safe is rather like citing the health risks of arsenic, and then suggesting someone drink instead from an unlabelled bottle and take their chances.

  38. d
    September 8th, 2004 at 18:16 | #38

    I think you will find comments contesting the particular New Scientist article through the Agbioview website. You will also find much authoritative scientific criticism of the kinds of genetic argument you are making, and in anycase, the recent US National Academy of Science Report takes a very different view to you.

    There are many new fruits that have been introduced into our food in the last hundred years , eg Kiwi fruit: with no long term testing of the type you demand and often real problems from allergies.

    So , despite what you say, there is no reason to argue that risk of well tested crop are any worse than what we already face.

    ON THE OTHER HAND, banning innovation has very real risks for us- we may suffer food insecurity and have to cut down forrest for new farms as is ocurring in Brazil now as a consequence of our inability to keep up with growing food demand.

    What about those risks?

  39. imogen
    September 8th, 2004 at 19:22 | #39


    AS their press release shows, what the US Academy of Sciences actually said was that all foods should be assessed on a case-by-case basis for human safety, both GM & non-GM, and as to the latter –

    “Adverse health effects from genetic engineering have not been documented in the human population, but the technique is new and concerns about its safety remain.”


    “Genetic engineering is more likely to cause unintended changes than some techniques, such as simple selection, but less likely to do so than other currently used methods, such as those that use radiation or chemicals. Because all methods can cause these changes, the committee concluded that attempts to assess food safety based solely on the method of breeding are “scientifically unjustified.”

    Something I certainly support, for as they point out, the current mono-cultural practices of irradiating seeds and food also have detrimental effects.


    I’m not familiar with your other site, so when I get a chance I’ll check it out and comment. I do note though that you quote the US Academy to support your claims, and ignore the fact that the article on Argentina was based on work done by a member of the same Academy, the former Exec Directors of the Board on Agriculture, no less.

    Argentina is also not an isolated case, although so far the most dramatic.

    Back to the press release – while this to a certain extent gives some credence to your example of kiwi fruit, allergins alone are not the issue, and as the USAoS points out, it is more concerned with modern techniques ranging from the treatment of seeds etc. with checmicals and radiation, along with genetic engineering, and teh fact remains that while traditional selection certainly should be scrutinised, it has a proven track record of thousands of years.

    Fundamentally, there is a scientifically sound argument against GM foods, which is there has been no long-term testing. Citing ‘well-tested’ crops is a fallacy because we haven’t even got 10-20 years of data yet, and of the 8 or so we do have, the results at best strongly split the experts; and certainly policies and responses in countries not dominated by Multinational GM interests suggest the analyses decidedly coming down against genetic engineering.

    I would argue that this is not true innovation, this is market control and a concerted attack on both genetic and social diversity. Only a fool would think that companies like Monsanto are in this for the good of humanity and the planet. It’s a lovely marketing line, but has no factual basis in reality. Rather, it represents a further significantly detrimental leap further down the road of monocropping, large-scale laboratory-style farming, which so far has had overwhelmingly negative impacts.

    The blunt truth is also that we currently easily meet food demand now; it’s just that western countries like the USA insist on feeding over 90% of their corn crop to feed-lot cows to make hamburgers that keeps people in other countries starving, along with gross trade inequities from forced cash-cropping to lack of access to markets, to completely inappropriate technology sold to countries where it has wreaked havoc. GE foods has all the hallmarks of these same patterns over again.

  40. d
    September 8th, 2004 at 21:45 | #40

    Thanks for your courteous tone and reasoned responses although obviously I dont judge many things in exactly the same way as you, and indeed I disagree distinctly with several of your assumptions. As far as having plenty of food at the moment , yes we do enough, and we do so because of technology, including the Green Revolution, has allowed us to expand food production since 1960 without increasing global farm area. this whole story is wonderfully explained by LLoyd Evans in Feeding the Ten Billion – have you read it?

    Why we can now give up new technology when the food security challenges are far greater now with two billion extra to feed than in 1960 I dont fathom.
    As to whether we can forgo the benefits of technologies such as GM to keep up with the next two billion population, I agree with the UN FAO whose director Diof point to the essential role of GM technology in the medium term. He and other similarly expert food policy organisations (eg IFPRI) point out that its not just population growth thats pushing up food demand over the coming decades – there is also shift to richer diets as people generally become less poor eg in China and India. Cities continue to encroach on Agricultural land as Diof notes. I’m sure you can find his remarks but I’ve kept copies if you need them. All these studies agree that we need to keep on improving agricultural output. But I agree also that that not to only thing we need to do about food issues.

    Im glad you read the NAS press release but why not read the actual report itself – you can buy electronic copis over the net quite cheaply. As far as one member of the NAS board being involved with the Argentina report I accept you advice, but also point out the NAS full report was a formal colloration of many different panels- its not just one or two authors.

    I rather think that you are underselling GM in saying that it’s not true innovation. Bt corn certainly is remarkable innovation, greatly facilitation Integrated pest management and dramatically improving the environment. Coming innovations such as omega3 oilseeds will help spare the pressure on fish reserves, and improve health. Draught tolerant crops will be invaluable if we do have to deal with substantial climate change, and in Australia will be important even if climate doesnt change much. Such innovation are in field trial in the US this year.

    Although I dont fully agree with what you say about trade issues I do agree that Agtrade in toto is a messy business. Massive subsidies in Japan EU and the USA are not helping the poor.

    I think you are rather underestimating the point I made about their already being many new foods we have been exposed to that havnt been tested in the long term, and I certainly don’t claim that allergy are the only risks. The NAS report goes into details about many others.

    It irrelevant how long most breeding techniques have been used to the the point I was making. Its that we have been frequently exposed to new food vaieties never eaten before, or cereal hybrids from non-food grasses to protect them against fungus disease, the fact they are bred into our foods by age old techniques doesnt make the new foods old.
    Tolerance of the presence of toxins in food that our liver can detoxify is quite commmon – eg alkaloids in our potatoes. Being omniverous animals, exposure to these risks of trying diverse foods as hunter gatherers is part of our evolutionary heritage. My point it that objectively speaking our diet exposes to a wide rage of natural risks because diverse dangerous chemicals are the way plant protect themselves and we have to eat something.

    I would appreciate actual pointers (citations, names)to the analysis of GM foods risks that you are referring to.

    Thank you again for engaging in honest discussion.

  41. d
    September 8th, 2004 at 22:06 | #41

    This is the kind of comment on the Argenitina story that I recall:

    GM Soya Saved Us, Says Angry Argentina After ‘Superweed’ Claim

    - Seamus Mirodan, Daily Telegraph (UK), April 18, 2004 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

    ‘Headlines in Britain last week claimed that genetically modified crops were proving disastrous in South America – but local farmers say they have transformed their lives’

    Ricardo Martinez smiled with pride as he looked over the thriving fields of genetically modified soya and then denounced critics who claimed last week that such crops had been a “disaster” for his country, Argentina. “Back in the 1980s we had a lot of trouble with flooding, soil erosion and ever-present weeds,” said Mr Martinez, who has been growing soya for seven years on his 3,200-acre farm 190 miles from the capital, Buenos Aires.

    “When Monsanto introduced GM soya to Argentina it was something of a miracle. It allowed us to increase production and manage our land far more effectively,” he added, stressing that the crop had been of “huge benefit” to Argentina’s economy. Mr Martinez’s remarks were prompted by an article in New Scientist magazine claiming that the introduction of GM crops in Argentina was proving an economic and environmental failure. The article, published in Britain last week, made national headlines when it said that Argentina’s pioneering use of GM soya since 1997 had caused “superweeds” to overrun the country and had led to health problems.

    The claims have prompted an angry reaction in the South American country, where GM crops have been embraced enthusiastically. Argenbio, Argentina’s council for biotechnology, led the protests, arguing that GM soya had enabled farmers to avoid a cocktail of chemicals that threatened the crop and, in some cases, damaged the health of farm workers and livestock, causing skin rashes and respiratory problems.

    GM soya is engineered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, so that farmers can use just that one product to control weeds without damaging their crops. “That combination of glyphosate and GM soya was a godsend to us,” Mr Martinez said. Glyphosate also takes less time to sink into the soil than the mix of chemicals used before, reducing the risk of its presence when the product is consumed.

    Since GM soya’s introduction in 1996 its production in Argentina has grown by almost 75 per cent, while more traditional crops such as rice, maize and wheat have shown a steady decline. Today, 99 per cent of soya grown in Argentina is genetically modified and farmers cultivate 85.5 million acres of it.

    New Scientist quoted experts who warned that GM crops could destroy the soil’s natural micro-organisms and create “superweeds” – undesirable plants that mutate to be as resistant to herbicides as the main crop. Small farmers blamed glyphosate for crop failure and loss of livestock. Elsewhere, Adolfo Boy, an agronomist and spokesman for the GM-sceptic Group for Rural Reflection, was quoted as saying: “Let Argentina be a warning to others. We are going down the path of destruction.”

    Many involved directly in Argentine agriculture said last week that they disagreed with that analysis. Eduardo Trigo, an agricultural consultant who carried out a study in 2002, jointly funded by the Argentine government and an international research centre, said that crops would be damaged only if glyphosate were used “negligently”. He accused New Scientist of making “very liberal use” of one such example to paint a misleading picture of Argentine agriculture.

    The study also found that the the expansion in soya growing had helped increase rural employment from 700,000 in 1995 to about 900,000 in the late 1990s and concluded that it had made Argentine farmers £4 billion a year richer. Eugenio Cap, the co-author of the study, said: “It is highly irresponsible to write an article describing the soya programme as a disaster when in effect it saved a society from economic catastrophe.”

    Carlitos Quattordio, an agronomist who works on the 5,000-acre Molinari farm, one of Buenos Aires province’s largest soya estates, said: “I am in the fields every day and I have seen no evidence of these ‘superweeds’. “If the cultivation process is carried out conscientiously there appear to be no adverse effects on the soil or livestock. Glyphosate is simple to use and it kills only the plants on which it is directly placed. As aircraft are not used to spray these crops, it is hard to see how it could end up on other people’s land. It certainly has no effect on any animals.”

    Gabriela Levitus, the executive director of Argenbio, said that her council had studied the environmental consequences of using glyphosate and found it harmless to other plants, livestock and farm workers. She rejected claims that GM crops reduced the levels of bacteria and other micro-organisms in the soil as “a complete lie”. GM soya was cultivated in such a way that the organic matter left after the harvest remained on the land, providing cover to maintain the soil’s humidity and nutrient levels, she said.

    Damage had been caused by some farmers’ reluctance to practice crop rotation, but that would be true of any monoculture, whether the crop was genetically modified or not, she said. “We are not savages who do not look after the soil. Producers and exporters appreciate the risks and, for their own good, are not going to let that situation arise.”

  42. Luis
    September 8th, 2004 at 22:32 | #42

    I can not let this pass… Using a chaotic country like Argentina as an example for anything is kind of a joke. Considering the institutional crisis, level of corruption, lack of transparency, etc you could show that [democracy, capitalism, GMOs , your pet topic here] is a failure.

    The blunt truth is also that we currently easily meet food demand now; it’s just that western countries like the USA insist on feeding over 90% of their corn crop to feed-lot cows to make hamburgers that keeps people in other countries starving, along with gross trade inequities from forced cash-cropping to lack of access to markets, to completely inappropriate technology sold to countries where it has wreaked havoc. GE foods has all the hallmarks of these same patterns over again.
    Why do people use such a paternalistic approach to problems? Most food crises in developing countries are due to social unrest, poor infrastructure and lack of property rights. Citizens of developed countries could stop eating hamburguers and people in the third world would continue dying of starvation.

  43. Matt
    September 9th, 2004 at 01:14 | #43

    Well, the discussion of the Greens certainly seems to bring about “vigorous debate.” (In less civil parts of the Internet it might be called a “flame war”)
    I’d like to contribute to that by responding to a point of Yobbo’s re liquor licensing:
    “The whole of Australia has since deregulated, EXCEPT Western Australia”
    Tasmania seems to have extraordinarily similar laws to the ones you describe, despite the Greens not holding balance of power for 10 of the last 15 years (and I’m being generous by starting that time frame when the Greens first held the balance.) Either major party has had a chance over that time to change it, and the Labor party has had the last 6 years to.
    It’s one of the less ambiguous appeals of the Greens – they support regulation of social problems (drugs, alchohol, tobacco, gambling) to reduce the impact to addicts whilst allowing others to indulge on occasion. The major parties can be many times less transparent dealing with those issues.
    Yobbo may have a point with his assertion that liquor is more heavily regulated in WA. We have two commenters now saying it’s just (or close to) as regulated in their own states, though. And implying that all other states have deregulated is going too far over the top. (He might argue that other states are less regulated in certain areas, but his comment seems to be the regurgitation of a WA pollie’s sound bite rather than a considered analysis)

  44. September 9th, 2004 at 02:15 | #44

    Turning this around, your opposition (indeed the yellow-bellied attitude of both major parties) to the Greens is based on the drugs you like. If you want to turn this into a debate on the negative effects on society (if you even believe “society” exists – I wouldn’t put it past a Liberal) of alcohol and tobacco versus cannabis and ecstasy, you’re getting yourself in deep, murky water.

    GJW, you should really get out and read some non-leftist websites sometimes, like say, mine. You may be surprised what you find.

  45. John Quiggin
    September 9th, 2004 at 06:46 | #45

    Queensland also has highly restrictive liquor laws and has been criticised for this by the NCC, which hasn’t IIRC mentioned WA.

    But in any case, Yobbo’s whole argument is a category mistake.

    (1) I point to numerous statements saying the Greens are Communists, Nazis, totalitarians, lunatics etc
    (2) Yobbo defends these statements by saying that the Greens have bad policies on liquor licensing.

    Correct or not, (2) is not relevant to (1)

    I was interested, BTW, in Yobbo’s moral relativism on this one. The Liberals introduced or at least maintained these policies, but that’s OK, because that was part of the spirit of the times. The alleged offence of the Greens is to support these policies at the wrong time.

  46. Mork
    September 9th, 2004 at 10:40 | #46

    The alleged offence of the Greens is to support these policies at the wrong time.

    … and for the wrong reasons! The big parties allow restrictive liquor laws to remain on the book largely at the behest of incumbent businesses – pubs and clubs. The Greens like them because they don’t think that Government ought to intervene to stop people acting in ways that are harmful to themselves.

    Both are bad reasons, but to my tastes, the first is just grubby, while the second is ominous.

  47. imogen
    September 9th, 2004 at 11:33 | #47


    I’m at work and today must be disciplined and do some! So I need to be as brief as I can. I’m also packing up my house to move right now, but did a little ransacking last night to track down a few things for you. How much is on the web I’m not sure, but I’d be surprised if it isn’t, as certainly anti-GM activists are making good use of the web.

    In a nutshell, to find many articles critiquing GE foods, I recommend doing a search under ‘horizontal gene transfer’, as the vast majority of concerns regarding GE crops relate to this phenomenon.

    Ok, there’s Arparal Pusztai’s work on GE potatoes that had a snowdrop plant gene spliced into them, that found the potatoes were substantially different from a ‘regular’ potato, and damage the organs and immune systems of lab rats.

    There’s been substantial work done on Monsanto’s recombinant bovine growth hormone, which has been banned as a result of identified increased cancer risks in Canada and the EU, and consumer lobby groups are currently taking the US FDA to court over it’s highly controversial approval of it’s use. (I’d also mention here that Monsanto waged a very dirty war against farmers in the UK who wanted to differentiate their milk as rBGH -free). You have to seriously question why the GE companies fight so very hard against having GE foods labelled.

    Dr Mae Wan-Ho in the UK has done substantial work on the dangers of the use of the cauliflower mosaic viral promoter (which was also implicated in Pusztai’s potatoes), pointing out it is used in it’s most infectious form, and is prone to breaking down and recombining with other DNA; and that in mammalian cells this is a well-known pre-cursor to cancer-causing conditions; he has also raised concerns that it could raise dominant viruses present in humans that it is closely related to – such as Hep. B and HIV. Wan-Ho has also raised conerns regarding allergies and GE. In sum, he has done pioneering work on horizontal gene transfer from GE foods and its known/potential effects on humans.

    with regard to allergies, probably the most known ‘near-miss’ was the work of US scientists who found that brazil nut genes spliced into soyabeans found that even the small quantity of genetic material could induce fatal allergic reactions in people sensitive to brazil nuts. I’m sorry, I can’t remember more of the specifics.

    The British Medial Association called for a complete moratorium on GE foods, stating that there was enough evidence to raise significant concerns that GE foods would help spread antibiotic resistance, cause unknown allergins, promote cancer through trangenic DNA, and produce unpredictable toxis by-products.

    there has also been numerous criticisms made of the testing done and accepted by authorities such as the US FDA with regard to GE foods. Essentially the FDA allows companies to self-police.

    Scientists who have publicly stated they have no inherent doutns about the legitimacy of GE foods have nonetheless cited current testing practices as grossly inadequate. Bt-corn is one of the crops that has received steady criticism on these grounds (ie that no comprehensive and/or long-term testing has been carried out).

    Environmental impacts
    Thanks for the article on Argentina; there are, as always, two sides to the story. I think if Argentina was an isolated (and controversial) case, I would be more sceptical, but similar problems have been reported in India (where farmers have taken to burning GE crops), the UK, Spain, the US, and Australia (I’m thinking specifically here of a South Australian example, but the crop is escaping me, sorry).

    More and more evidence is showing that GE crops are not producing a reduction in chemical use over time (and I sincerely wish they were, believe me, I had great hopes at first); in many cases are leaking DNA material to closely related plants including weeds (hardly surprising given the cereal crops we cultivate are simply ‘weeds’ we chose to do so with thousands of years ago).

    Horizontal gene transfer in the environment from GE crops is becoming more and more frequently documented; also substantiating human health concerns regarding this same phenomenon. Prof. Kaatz, from the University of Jena did groundbreaking work showing that genes from GE plants had been transported via pollen into the gut larvae of baby bees.

    And certainly organic farmers have been protesting and commissioning work on the splicing of Bt into crops, as its prevalence is removing the one non-chemical pest control they had available by encouraging Bt-resistant pest strains.

    I think in sum, I’d put my case to you like this:

    At the very least there is a gerat deal of controversy and disagreement when it comes to the human health effects and environmental hazards of GE crops. These concerns are not coming just from individual mavericks, but from highly respected researchers (some of whom have since been silenced as a result of industry pressure, and some who blew the whistle -eg British Biotech Andrw Millar on GE pharmecuticals), some of the Nobel winners (eg Rotblat), and several high-level organisations.

    Fears to their effects and anger over injustices and cover-ups perpetuated by the GE industry are also coming thick and fast from third world GE crop growers such as those in India, and from other parts of the world, and from consumers (otherwise known as people).

    With such a level of disagreement in the scientific and general community, the only acceptable course is to declare a moratorium and fund open and rigorous long-term research, because we are not playing with small bikkies here, we are potentially playing with our survival.

    and now I must work!

  48. September 9th, 2004 at 11:34 | #48

    The Liberals introduced or at least maintained these policies, but that’s OK, because that was part of the spirit of the times.

    John: The Labor party introduced the White Australia policy. Ergo, nobody should vote for them because they are a pack of racists.

    Or is that different?

    How many bloody times do I have to repeat myself here? Yes, the liberal party introduced these laws many decades ago. Yes, they were kept on the books during the 80′s and 90′s.

    The point is that while the rest of Australia has seen deregulation of the Retail and Liquor industries over the last decade, WA has not – despite a significant funding carrot from the federal government to reform these laws.

  49. imogen
    September 9th, 2004 at 11:40 | #49

    PS -

    no haven’t read your recommended book up there about feeding the 10 million. I just couldn’t help myself and wanted to add –

    I don’t take feeding the growing population lightly as an issue, but I strongly question the logic of not initially addressing gross food production/distribution inequities, and examining our diet (as opposed to assuming that demand for a richer diet is acceptable, inevitable and sustainable), before taking what amounts to at best, a leap in the dark with GE technologies.

  50. d
    September 9th, 2004 at 22:47 | #50

    Yes I agree, there are many other issues other than increasing total food output or farm efficiency that should be addressed, and higher output doesnt have absolute priority over these many other important issues.
    But neither is it irrelevant to distribution – increased local output minimises the need for transporting food large distances and increased output tends to decreases food prices and makes it more likely that poorer people can get (afford)access to food, so output cannot be ignored if you want to address distibution issues. Do you think that if total global food produced stays the same for the indefinite future, and prices eventually go up from demand pressures, THAT IT WILL BE ECONOMIMCALLY EASIER to ensure the poor in the cities get their food!
    Also, I don’t think you (or I ) have any moral right to veto the choice of people in China and India to decide, as they become richer, to eat more chicken, pork, and eggs and milk in their diets when they start from relatively impoverished diets. I think you would be better off not moralising what others should be forced to make do with. Remember at least Marie Antionette and her advice about cake. Remember also the food poor are those most affected by the rich well fed European Greens who fund this “debate”.
    Also the GM issue is not just a nutritional issue, it is an environmental issue – the land area to feed 2 extra billion people is immense and in China, Bangladesh, and India for example there is little currently unused land. Which forrest are you going to sacrifice if specialist plant breeders are denied the best technologies to impove yield by well intentioned but largely misinformed Greens?
    Also, are you aware of the long time lags in technology development-we actually dont have much time to lose to provide the resources to feed the pooor in 2020.

    We occupy all the best farmland already, and trying to farm marginal land (uplands) is known to cause much erosion- better more soybeans, cassava and corn from richer land already being farmed, and that inevitably means better technology.

    To you GE may seem like a leap into the unknown and I can understand why that feeling generates concern.But just because there is darkness for you doesnt mean others cant see. The viewpoint of an experienced geneticist of some 40 years of study might be different to yours.

    To see from that viewpoint also that most genetics discussed by groups like Greenpeace or ISIS /Mae Wan Ho is , for the last ten years or so, totally misinformed and professionally incompetant, induces also a somewhat different perspective to yours on the morality of current anti-GM politics that are now demonstably to the disadvantage of both the environment and food security for the poor while intending or claiming the opposite. I see it as rank foolish hypocrasy at best, and criminal negligence most likely.

    However the dangererous consequences from 2 billion extra people needing food and vast increases in farm land if we follow Green advice, and even vaster increases in farmland if we follow organic farmers advice everywhere is a serious environmental issue. Organic farming means less food than conventional for from the same land. Organics claim to get equal yields to conventional farms but dont count the extra land needed to make manure.

    The fact that Green fearmongering has in the past years killed many African from malaria, and now is unintentionally promoting some unnecessary deaths from mycotoxins in corn doesnt impress me about Green intelligence, honesty or ethics. The fact that the frequent response to scientists raising these issue is personal vilification rather than honest dealing with the facts also doesnt impress me. The fact that some scientists such as Anthony Travawas have been silenced by violent threats to their families by Green extremists doesnt impress me either.

    But it does make me rather keen to ask a lot of questions of the Greens and their Greenish Labor allies such as Ms Bronwyn Pike and Ms Terri Bracks during the current campaign.

  51. d
    September 9th, 2004 at 23:29 | #51

    I was only replying to your PS.
    Re your earlier Post

    Sorry to be rather blunt, but you’ve bought up one more example of Green “kookyness”. Ho’s the biological equivalent of a “Cold Fusion” scandal.

    It happens that I’m somewhat of an expert on Horizontal gene transfer. But please dont use Mae Wan Ho as a credible source. She (not He I believe) doesnt have any relevant real professional training (check her CV) and her first book was appalling.
    Better read real genetics starting with B. Lewin’s Genes VIII and real reviews like M. Syvanen and C I Kado’s “Horizontal Gene Transfer” (Academic Press.2nd ed 2002) which I have on my desk as I type.

    In brief – movement of DNA occurs in a vast scale in nature- so whats all the special fuss, about some lab stuff supposedly doing something thats never ocurred before. I personally know of one natural insect virus caught in the act of ferrying genes across diferent insect species. Cross species movement of DNA in nature is ubiqitous.

    You will of course have seen the recent article about human divergence from Chimps being driven by naural mobile ALu DNA (see Future Pundit very recently). It well illustrates Ho’s peculiar view of genetics is, to coin a phrase “kooky”.

    You also will have caught recent Nature articles about other involvements of natural mobile DNA in catalysing evolution of monkey genes. The truth is that we’re human because of mobile natural DNA.

    Professionally I’ve worked with viruses and mobile natural DNA and published extensively. I teach this stuff to University students. Ho would be laughed out of every real biology department at any reputable University. Im not trying to bluff , but let you know in a few words what I can write about in specific detail for weeks and not run out of things to say. Ho’s first book ignored the history of mobile DNA up to 1980 to try and laughably claim that gene movement among bacteria was invented accidently by scientists in the rec-DNA era when its been happening everywhere for say 3 billion years or more of natural evolution.

    But Ho’s a Green hero. Says a lot about Green lack of scientific credibility when it comes to genetics.

  52. Carlos
    September 10th, 2004 at 02:16 | #52

    d, talking about great green heros: Dr. David Suzuki the FATHER of genetics!

    I personally heard Dr. Suzuki, when questioned by that great aussie Dr. Karl, say the following about genetics:
    (paraphrased–I’ll find the quote & post it later!)
    “It is such a huge area of human knowledge we just know so little about, and where the risks, costs, and ethical dilemmas are so huge that I couldn’t work in the area any longer. I want to be able to comment knowledgeably AND impartially, so I need to be at arms length”.

  53. d
    September 10th, 2004 at 08:07 | #53


    Imogen, this is the link to the latest news on the “horizontal gene movement story” that worries you. Mae Wan Ho is worried about gene rearrangements causing the end of the world because her view is that it didn’t occur until scientists fiddled in the lab, when she herself is a walking example of gene movement,

    Let me put it this way, if I were to say that homosexuality is going to cause the end of the world because it was invented in New York City in 1970 you’d be entitled to disabuse me for my naivety. Queen Victoria might believe me though. If I were then to say “stop all social intercourse between homosexuals because our civilization is threatened” you should rightfully call me “kooky”. If I were to claim that only humans engaged in homosexuality, I’d be ignorant of biology. But if the fundamentalist Christians took the misconceived books I’d written on the subject to ban physical contact between men to save the planet- it would be as Marx might say “farce”.

    That how it is with the Greens and “horizontal gene movement”. It is a sad reflection on the general lack of education about facts of genetics that so many people take this kind of story line at face value. Especially ABC radio journalists, who are on a par with Queen Victoria when it comes to the modern world of biology. But don’t ever claim they havn’t been told. It is plain incompetence that’s preventing them educating themselves.

  54. d
    September 10th, 2004 at 11:28 | #54

    Carlos , you hit the nail on the head.

    The problem is that Dr Suzuki has disengaged his BRAIN also from the science also since leaving academe some 30 years ago.

    In an interview recorded on Australian ABC TV he commented about the dangers of GENE movement from GM pollen to milkweed when commenting about the monarch butterfly issue. This comment was on the public record but the ABC TV didn’t realise this displayed Dr Suzikis complete lack of understanding of the factually relevant science and went ahead broadcasting his comment.I blinked in surprise when I heard him and checked the transcripts to verify I HADNT MISHEARD. The risks from GENE movement from corn pollen to milkweed are miniscule (but not mathematically zero, perhaps they are possible in the life of the universe).

    I have personally challenged Dr Suzuki to correct his error.

    His response “obviously you and I are in different worlds” (from my memory, but archived in old computer files!), and refusal to acknowledge the misinformation needed correcting.

    Now I know that I have never left this planet in my lifetime, so I’m left wondering what world Dr Suzuki thinks he’s on, and why he keeps on talking about earth if his experience relates to a diffrent planet. But I guess the Greens know what he’s talking about – Kooky Utopia perhaps, somewhere beteen Venus and Mars, but I personally prefer to struggle with changing our own imperfect planet based on imperfect but honest thought about our actual world.

    Dr Suzukui’s response also suggests that he’s not very alert now to the demands of professional ethics.

    These are the heroes of the Green movement. I wonder why Green the rank and file don’t call them to order because these sloppy attitudes are now actually damaging human lives and causing unnecessary environmental harm, but I guess that the nature of religeous zealotry.
    But the intentions are good!

  55. imogen
    September 10th, 2004 at 15:10 | #55


    I think if we are serious about feeding the world’s poor, we must acknowledge first up that we live in a grossly inequitable world, and that market forces haven’t just failed to reduce poverty, they have actually induced greater levels of it. I would go further and say that there is ample evidence that they promulgate it. Our entire global economy is based upon ever-increasing consumption which is clearly unsustainable, and one of the first glaring areas requiring reform is agriculture. So when I talk of addressing inequalities and food distribution, I’m talking about a) a just re-allocation of land and removal of minority monopolies of arable land, and b) dismantling export-oriented agriculture for the profit of a few, and re-focussing on local food production for the masses.

    I agree wholeheartedly that local food production is essential, which is why before we launch ‘green revolution 2’, I’d much rather see these major reforms such as removing the stranglehold of export-oriented agriculture from third world countries. Examples range from tobacco, currently occupying 1% of arable land & accounting for 10% of deforestation rates to the cut flower and ornamental industry which occupies as much as 30% of arable land in some countries. Then there’s the gross waste of land used as pasturage for export meat markets – on average permanent pasture accounts for around 65% of arable land globally (although obviously not all of it is used for meat production).

    India, a country I have travelled and lived in over a period of 20 years makes an excellent example. You say there is little unused land in India – you’re right; but you ignore the fact that most of it is taken up with growing export crops such as sugar and cotton, not food for the local populous. India is the biggest exporter of cut tulips in the world, grown in the state of Haryana, considered to be second only to Punjab in terms of being the bread basket of India. Of course, the Punjab’s soils structure has been utterly decimated by the effects of ‘Green Revolution 1’, resulting in massive topsoil losses. The Punjab still grows gain crops – which are exported to Europe to make pet food.

    Export-oriented agriculture has also seen the reconcentration of land into the hands of the very wealthy few in India like never before, resulting in a sub-class of millions who have no access to land to grow food. Profit margins for the few welathy landowners decide the crop and the market, not the starving poor of India.

    India demonstrates perfectly just how much fundamental change is needed, and what it could achieve, without even going near the introduction of biotechnology. I’d also point out that in India, GE hasn’t been introduced to increase food crops, it’s been introduced as Bt-cotton, which was first illegally grown in trials by a Monsanto subsidiary, and then gained sanction from government – now revoked in the face of mass farmer protests in some states. It was introduced as hundreds of farmers suicided as cotton crops failed as a result of pest insects, now resistant to pesticides. This is the same Bt-cotton that was so unsuccessful in resisting said insect pests in Texas that farmers sued Monsanto, after it repeatedly failed trails. Yet this crop is apparently good enough for India – aside from the fact that it has nothing to do with food production.

    With regard to what we eat, I’m not moralising about a few nations, I’m being bluntly pragmatic about the whole world. In the west we eat on average 4 times as much protein per day as we need, and commonly 30 times more food daily, period, than your average developing nation citizen. Fully half the world’s agriculture is geared around meat production for consumption by the wealthy 25%. The growing elite in other parts of the world eat excessive meat because it’s a sign of prestige, just as we do. Milk makes an excellent example, from India again. When the burgeoning middle class of India realised that milk was drunk in great quantities in the west, it resulted in a ‘market shift’ in India where milk became a highly expensive ‘prestige food’, so that rural poor could no longer afford it, and no longer fed it to their children because it was more profitable if you had milk to sell it to distributors for the city – those small profit margins nearly always going to pay debt, as most Indian farmers are still essentially bonded labourers. Little ‘prestige milk’ booths sprang up all over India, and you could witness middle-class Indians lining up their obese children to buy them milk to drink, while in the countryside, childhood osteoporosis flourishes.

    I’ve digressed, but what I’m saying in a nutshell, is that we all need to eat less meat, or if you want a more sophisticated statement, the world’s agriculture needs to be reformed away from excess protein production. And as I’m not interested in moralising but acting, I’m vegetarian myself for precisely these reasons.

    I think you are grossly underestimating the gains in terms of freed arable land and increased and more appropriate production that would be gained if we:
     Dropped export-oriented agriculture
     Dropped non-essential crops like tobacco, cut flowers & turf, and excessive cotton production for the fashion industry
     Moved away from large monocultural farming practices that requires more inputs than their net outputs, and moved back to sustainable mixed cropping & farming with minimal inputs,
     Re-oriented food production to be localised and
     Re-oriented agriculture away from excessive meat production (the single biggest cause of deforestation still, as well)

    You are also ignoring one last thing, D. We could feed the poor right now, and we don’t. The same companies that drove ‘Green Revolution 1’ have made massive profits at the expense of a global decline in soil health, loss of topsoil, water contamination etc., and marketed themselves as being out to ‘feed the world’. Well, surprise, they didn’t, in fact they did virtually the opposite. Now they want to profit further from the catastrophe by peddling GE crops that just happen to be resistant to the pesticides and herbicides they sell.

    True there are geneticists with a different view to me, but there are also experienced geneticists, molecular biologists, ecologists etc. etc. who agree with me entirely. Nor is the argument against GE put solely by groups like Greenpeace which you so deride. I note you’ve had nothing to say about the British Medical Association’s GE concerns (an organisation with around 100,00 members), as just one major organisation that has raised significant concerns over GE. So has the Union of Concerned Scientists – again representing over 100,000. You’ve also been notably silent on rBGH.

    You say “anti-GM politics are demonstrably to the disadvantage of both the environment and food security…”, and in the same response accuse me of moralising. I can’t think of anything more paternalistic or moralising than western scientists, funded once again by private multi-nationals & profit-oriented governments, forcing GE crops onto the third world on the fallacious basis that ‘it’s for their own good’;- despite the fact that for many years now, grass-roots based organisations in the third world have been clearly articulating an alternative solution in the form of all the agricultural and market reforms I listed above. But of course, the west doesn’t want to hear it because it means an end to profits and third world dependency, which benefits us enormously.

    At the last two World Social Forums, with tens of thousands of delegates, GE technologies and their multinational proponents were roundly condemned. Numerous accounts of unethical and downright illegal actions by companies such as DuPont, Monsanto and Novartis were detailed, along with law suits against them. Your assumption that GE technologies are benefiting people and the environment were given a total hiding.

    Are you really prepared to dismiss all this opposition? At the risk of being taken the wrong way, I’d strongly urge you if possible to go to a country like India and talk to the people who are affeted by the subjects of our debate here – not just government/corporation funded reasearchers and vested interests. Check out the World Social Forum and other such massive third world movements and what they are saying. I respect them to have a far better idea of what is best for their people and their countrys’ poor and environments. They live in them and fight these battles on a daily scale.


    I’m sorry D, but here you write about organic farming is absolute rubbish. In independent trials time and again, small & medium-scale mixed organic and biodynamic farming out-produces modern agricultural techniques, and requires far less inputs, and bequeaths far less environmental impacts. The manure is not even a remotely a problem when you consider that we have 6 billion people’s poo already as a ready manure supply.

    You want to talk ethics?

    Monsanto & terminator technology – deemed one of the greatest threats to food security going; pressure has increased enough that the company says it may delay it.

    Monsanto caught out with illegal activities, predominantly illegal imports, contamination and trials in:
    The USA (corn)
    Brazil (soybeans)
    India (cotton)
    Bulgaria (potatoes)
    Ukraine (potatoes)
    Italy (maize)
    – not to mention it’s the proud producer of Agent Orange, currently responsible for the suffering and deaths of millions in Vietnam alone.

    In countries where farmers have tried to resist Monsanto, intimidation tactics by the company abound, from suing to market breaking to physical violence.

    DuPont – fined for illegal seed price fixing.

    Novartis – pharmaceutical branch found guilty of encouraging the diagnosis of ADD/AHDD to increase sales of it’s drug, ritalin in the USA. Now known as Syngenta, also found guilty of illegal GE seed contamination of maize in Germany, and illegal GE trials in New Zealand.

    It’s an unfortunate but undeniable fact that all ‘causes’ attract extremists, and also develop into entities that spend much of their energy justifying their own existence. Greenpeace certainly falls into that category for me, despite occasionally being on the mark.

    Compared and contrasted with the ill-gotten trillions of wealth and systemic injustices instigated and perpetuated by multinational corporations, they pale into insignificance. If you really want to play the ‘who’s killed more / committed more injustices against how many developing world poor’, I can flatly guarantee that MN’s outscore propagandising Green Groups by about 1000:1, and am happy to back with stats and facts if you’re not willing to take my word.


    Horizontal transfer. I am well aware that it happens naturally, but the crux of the debate here is what happens with regards to GE products, which at the very least radicalise the process by speed and breadth of alternative genetic materials being introduced to organisms. I’ll buy your professional opinion that Wan-Ho is a hack (I’ve read of Wan-Ho’s work rather it, itself, hence gender confusions. I’ve also never seen reference to the whole post/pre 1980 bit – c’est la vie). I presume then that you must have an equally low professional opinion then of all the Monsanto etc. geneticists (or I should say publicists) who declared over and over that there was no evidence of horizontal gene transfer from GE crops, and that it would never happen, despite it being repeatedly pointed out that it is a natural phenomenon, and that GMOs are far less genetically stable than naturally evolved organisms.


    At some point, of course, we are going to have to just agree to disagree, and I assure you I don’t see this as being about either of us winning or losing. These discussions are important, and I thank you at the very least for pointing out serious flaws in Wan-Ho’s work, and recommending some good reading. I hope I’ve been able to do a little of the same for you.



  56. Carlos
    September 10th, 2004 at 16:02 | #56

    “A lot of people are arguing that politics or economics SHOULD NOT be the only concern here. Other policy implications are just as relevant, if not more.” I repeat it once again! Technology is not a PANACEA!

    I am a businessman, not a scientist, but I am pretty good at spotting trends and consumer reactions:
    - Why is that Biotechs oppose GM Labeling so vehemently?
    - Why is it that organic and “clean/pure” products carry such a premium in the market place? (have a look at the average supermarket in the UK! A trend increasingly evident here!)

    COMMERCIALLY, GMOs are completely unsuccessful and very long way from proven. We are a very loooong way from knowing enough in this area. It is irresponsible and arrogant to throw around claims to its infallibility. Let’s not pay for Biotechs R&D and marketing spin with the public commons. Let them assume the risk!

    d, you still did not respond to any of Imogen’s arguments, other than discrediting her source: Mae Wan Ho. What about the rest?

    If anything I’d like to thank you, d. This is a very useful exercise that has helped to prepare us for when GMOs becomes a hugely important issue politically in Oz, as it has become a huge issue in Canada, NZ, UK, EU, etc.

    I will file this discussion together with some very useful feedback I am waiting for from some experts: a PhD geneticist and virologist from the US, an aussie CSIRO scientist, a medical Doctor in Germany, etc. I will create a GM specific website, with a focus on POLICY and practical outcomes, where all this info will reside.

    I will post a summary here in a couple of days, the website will take a bit longer (some of us have plenty of work to get done! Even a life, too!).

    Thanks d, your fanatical support has served us well. Maybe you could get a job as a spinner for Monsanto… then again it didn’t turn out as you wanted so maybe you’re not that good at it after all …you get points for trying, though.

    We will be ready!
    “First, they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.” – Gandhi

  57. d
    September 11th, 2004 at 09:47 | #57

    Ive read you last post and dont find much of what you say surprising, and I acknowledge the importance of your main points. I am equally able to respond further but will do so briefly. Much of what you say I disagree with and it will take extensive discussion because our difference are very fundamental.
    You are totally right about vegetarianism, but just in case many people in the world resist a call to completely change their diet over the next two decades (a revolution that will be quite dramatic), I think it would also be reasonable to allow other approaches to be encouraged which might have value for improving land efficiency. We are talking about a massive complex challenge which we both agree will need many changes. You seem to think a radical restructuring of Africulture is needed. let me remind you the last two efforts on these lines, in China 1960, and Ukraine 1930s killed som 35 million people, so be careful your revolution doent do the same.

    Although I’m not certain that your diagnosis of problems caused by the Green revolution in India is not the whole story, I don’t claim it was perfect. I acknowledge the obvious quality of your first hand experience there .But you are rather forgetting that it saved arguably 100,000,000s of lives. You are also not acknowledging that before 1960 India was dependant on food aid from abroad for survival, and now it has excess capacity for grain. What I really admire Gordon Conway’s wish for a Doubly Green Revolution, decribed in his last book.

    You admonish me for avoiding comment on the British Medical Associations views on GM risks. However you fail to acknowledge they recently revised their stance. Perhaps Ill give you and opportunity to comment about their revised opinion, but at least acknowledge their old position has had adverse consequecees in affecting the decisions made in several African states to not accept American food AID during famine, and then reflect perhaps that the BMA have inadvertantly made the lives of poor Africans worse by a stance that they now realise was misguided.

    I short, very likely the BMA were originally stampeded into a foolish position by Green political zealots and made judgements that were scientifically flawed and which have caused harm, so rather than having nothing to say about the BMA, I am highly critical of it, but welcome their change of heart

  58. d
    September 11th, 2004 at 10:09 | #58

    Re rBGH
    Imogen, quickly.
    My silence on rBGH is because I dont regard it as a key issue . Im not convinced it does any harm, but dont believe it is a great loss if it is not used. I acknowledge that to some it is an iconic example of the evils of capitalism, and some argue it causes cruelty to animals, and if those arguments are true we should pay attention. But the major issue that I address is freedom to innovate on the farm in growing crops better so we can have a secure future, and rBGH doesnt really figure there in my view. However I never duck any argument where I believe harm is being done through suppresion of truth no matter how many people I’m arguing with or who they are.

    Im thus not impressed by the numbers of UCS and BMA that you mentioned. The UCS are a political organisation despite their name, and you havn’t shown how many BMA members have actually supported the BMAs old position. I would guess that many British doctors strongly criticised it. I would also prefer that you tell me the particular reputable scientists who have suported to anti-GM case after deliberate consideration and most importantly what their arguments and EVIDENCE are: I know there are some GM scientific critics, but my impression not many.
    But thanks for the last post- it displays great energy and Im convinced that you are absolutely honest in argument and totally sincere, and I enjoy conversing with you.

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