Home > Oz Politics > Who prefers the Greens, part 3

Who prefers the Greens, part 3

September 27th, 2004

As predicted, the Liberals have given preferences to the Greens ahead of Labor, raising the prospect that the Greens might win some urban seats and perhaps hold the balance of power in a hung Parliament. As I’ve observed previously, the Greens have been subject to ferocious attacks, in the course of which they’ve been compared to Communists, Nazis, kooks and vandals. Presumably, a party that would give preferences to Communists or Nazis ought not to be supported by decent Australians.

So will any of those who have denounced the Greens in these terms follow through and advocate a vote against their Liberal allies? Will any of them even condemn the government? I’m not holding my breath.

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  1. Steve Edwards
    September 27th, 2004 at 21:15 | #1

    Question: Will any of them even condemn the government?

    Answer: Yes

    Question: So will any of those who have denounced the Greens in these terms follow through and advocate a vote against their Liberal allies?

    No. The alternative would be voting for the ALP, who have a comprehensive two-house preference deal with the Greens.

  2. Jill Rush
    September 27th, 2004 at 22:48 | #2

    The hysterical attacks and misrepresentation of the Greens is quite astounding to see. The Family First has a TV ad on the extreme Greens – Quite a laugh from a party which has such extreme views on so many topics.

    SA has a very good Green representative with solid credentials for the Senate ticket – he just doesn’t have the same level of funds available to advertise as the Family First which has put a lot of money into posters and TV ads- nothing that actually lets people know about their links to right wing religion.

    The Sunday Mail had a very damning article on the Family First yesterday but it probably got lost in the Power fever.

  3. September 27th, 2004 at 23:22 | #3

    There’s an idea, Jill.

    Steve, vote for Family First! We could all do with a reminder that there are things out there a great deal worse than Greens or the (left-faction) ALP.

  4. d
    September 28th, 2004 at 06:10 | #4

    Peter Raven and the Roman Catholic Churches Pontificial Academy have just published a commentary of the moral issues raised by irrational opposition to Gm foods (which The Greens support).

    Their views are very similar to my own on this issue, so if we were to duplicate John Q’s contorted reasoning that started this thread, I’m a Catholic.
    (But I’m not baptised as such, neither have I ever attended a Catholic mass or confession!).

    One Quote from the Vatican report (from Agbioview)
    “Whatever policy might be adopted for Europe, persuading governments responsible for the lives of hundreds of thousands of starving people in Africa to forego food aid on the basis of politically or economically motivated disinformation seems to me to constitute a serious crime against humanity.”

    So how about it John; why are you cheering for a squad complicit in what seem to be crimes against humanity?. (And now that I think of it, who was it who were very big on crimes against humanity in the 1930s……)

    And to those who might be offended by this post, please explain first why sabotaging research on third world food resources and blocking perfectly safe food aid to regions suffering from famine are not crimes against humanity, and why complicity in such crimes does not merit comparison with the bogymen of the thirties, or with the mass famines induced in the Ukraine and in China by the communists, even though their perpetraters may be modern good thinking social democrats of a very different flavour who find it very hard to face up to the moral consequences of their own actions, but very easy to condemn others.

    The whole Raven article is a devastating critique of the immorality of a policy position that Greens in general are largly responsible for, and have yet to dissociate themselves from.

  5. George
    September 28th, 2004 at 07:56 | #5

    Why not ask the other obvious question – will the Greens (who regularly denounce the Libs in similar terms) explicitly discourage Lib voters from preferencing the Greens instead of Labor? Not likely. As Prof Q. always likes to point out, hypocrisy runs both ways.

  6. John Quiggin
    September 28th, 2004 at 08:10 | #6

    “who regularly denounce the Libs in similar terms”

    George, can you point to instances where the Greens have compared the government to Nazis or Communists?

  7. September 28th, 2004 at 09:47 | #7

    Thank god we don’t have to follow how-to-vote cards.

    I’ll personally be putting One Nation ahead of the rest of the kooks (including the greens). Unlike the Libs, One Nation taking National seats doesn’t concern me at all – the two are barely distinguishable.

  8. September 28th, 2004 at 10:02 | #8

    Pr Q at September 28, 2004 08:10 AM issues a challenge I find difficult to resist:

    can you point to instances where the Greens have compared the government to Nazis or Communists?

    I can point to instances where the Greens have used rhetoric to that effect.
    The Greens regularly characterise Howard as a “warmonger”, “warcriminal” and “bloodthirsty” ie guilty of the immoral actions typical of Nazi and Communist political behaviour.
    This is the way the party of the Cultural Left describe Howard – the man who played a critical role in the liberation of E Timor and Afghanistan from sectarian thugs and theocratic despots. Democracy is being promoted in these nations, in part thanks to Howard, but the Cultural Lefts response is: Howard: monstrous criminal bloodthirsty liar.
    Even Howards most controversial action, participation in the regime change of Iraq, was to depose an “actual and existing war” criminal. And having more ADF troops in Iraq probably saved civilian lives there, according to well known military formulas relating troops numbers and security.
    I would like to see, just for once in the History of the World, some of the legion of Howard-hating Cultural Leftists acknowledge the progressive work Howard organised in these conflicts (and others in Bouganiville & Solomons).
    I challenge Culural Leftists of all parties to come clean on this. But, to quote Pr Q in another context, “I won’t be holding my breath”.

  9. John Quiggin
    September 28th, 2004 at 10:18 | #9

    Jack, you are confusing here GreenLeft (the Trotskyist group formerly known as the Socialist Workers Party) with the Greens, a confusion encouraged by GreenLeft in their reporting. As you ought to be aware, the Greens have rigorously excluded SWP entrists from their ranks – hence the SWP has to rely on reporting of a meeting addressed by a range of speakers to promote the idea that they are part of the Greens.

    Also, I’d appreciate it if you would stop going on about Howard in posts that are at most tangentially related to him.

    I’m happy to endorse Howard’s actions on the Solomons and (at least during the immediate crisis – his subsequent dealings are another matter) East Timor. Since we also agree that Iraq was a disaster, there doesn’t seem to be much reason for endlessly going over the same ground.

    If you want to comment further on Howard, please wait for an appropriate post, or have your own say on Catallaxy.

  10. September 28th, 2004 at 10:55 | #10

    My bad regarding the habitual identification of the Green-GreenLeft. FWIW-IMHO the Green Party policies are quite respectable, although I wonder sometimes about their politics.
    Its sporting of Pr Q to acknowledge Howards progressive actions in Oceania. I presume Pr Q agrees that Howard deserves a minor credit for mobilising ADF forces in Afghanistan.
    I apologise for boorish and boring auto-repeat Howard-boosting. FWIW-IMHO, Pr Q is the far and away the fairest of the Howard-hat- er…vocal critics of Mr Howard.

    .

  11. Michael Burgess
    September 28th, 2004 at 11:09 | #11

    d, Has raised one of the critical issues regarding the Greens which is their completely irrational opposition to GM food. Apart from increasing agricultural output, GM crops can greatly reduce blindness (vitamin A in rice etc.) and other infirmities as well as lead to a large reduction in chemical use. There are also other potential significant environmental benefits. I would suggest that this issue alone should stop any rational person voting for them – and lets not get into the nuclear energy issue.

    Another example of their irrationality is their vocal condemnation of the main political parties for their mean spirited stance on refugees. While I agree with much of their analysis in this area (while being very uneasy about some of the Muslims we let in), I – unlike the greens – do not have a long history of supporting zero population growth. One simply cannot have a generous immigration policy and low population growth or am I missing something here.

  12. September 28th, 2004 at 11:52 | #12

    I’m quite interested in this last one. It does seem inconsistent for them to be so vociferous on refugee issues, and I believe (though I stand to be corrected) they also speak up for a more generous foreign aid policy.

    Yet zero immigration would not seem an easy policy bedfellow with compassion for those across the seas. I assume their position is that all the refugees would be fine- they would just cull family reunion, skilled and general migration. But that is hardly fair or generous. There is nothing compassionate about culling family reunion.

    Easy to make catch-all policies from the fringe…

  13. snuh
    September 28th, 2004 at 12:11 | #13

    the major parties marry concerns about the number of refugees we let in with concerns about adverse consequences from slowing or negative population growth.

    this is about as inconsistent as the greens’ policy, which is to say, it isn’t really that inconsistent at all. i mean, from the greens’ perspective, even if we were to quadruple our annual refugee intake [which would not take it beyond about 40,000 a year, from memory], this is hardly likely to impact much on population growth.

  14. Paul Norton
    September 28th, 2004 at 12:43 | #14

    I’m in the thick of marking essays, but to take up one point from Michael Burgess, it’s quite possible to combine support for a generous immigration policy with support for low population growth or population stabilisation. If ABS population projections for the coming century are accurate, fertility rates will remain substantially below replacement level for the forseeable future, natural increase will be replaced by natural decrease within the next couple of decades, and annual net inward migration rates roughly equal to the post-WWII average will have the effect of maintaining a stable population.

    Also, it’s been stated previously during the election campaign, but Greens policies do not include a call for zero population growth or for a set population target, in part because nobody really knows what a sustainable population for Australia would be if we were to achieve optimally sustainable production, consumption and land-use patterns. The Greens policy does oppose “unlimited population growth”, but I don’t think anyone on this forum would be silly enough to defend such a concept.

    Finally, the one qualification I’d make to the population stabilisation scenario outlined above is that if medical technology succeeds in significantly prolonging human lifespans over the next half century, natural decrease will not kick in until several decades later than the ABS projections assume, and we will have a quite significant demographic spike to contend with.

  15. John Quiggin
    September 28th, 2004 at 13:13 | #15

    ‘So how about it John; why are you cheering for a squad complicit in what seem to be crimes against humanity?”

    This is guilt by association that goes well beyond any reasonable bounds. I could equally well point out that the pro-GM food lobby generally supports strong IP, and that strong IP measures have been used to deny access to generic medicine for people in poor countries.

    Do you have any evidence that the Australian Greens have opposed GM-based food aid to poor countries?

  16. wilful
    September 28th, 2004 at 13:17 | #16

    d and Michael have made claims about the supposed munificent bounty of GM foods for saving the world, and say that the Greens should stand condemned for opposing this.

    From the evidence before us, the Greens are far more concerned about the fate of third world agriculture than Monsanto or Aventis ever will be. Terminator genes, attempts to patent indigenous IP (Neem, basmati rice), and Roundup Ready crops are far better indicators of where these companies hearts lie than some speculative future benefits.

    Anyway, on otehr matters, politics does make strange bedfellows. Witness the Family First and Democrats deal.

  17. Paul Norton
    September 28th, 2004 at 13:55 | #17

    GM is not my area of expertise, so I’ll confine myself to observing that:

    (a) d and others need to make it clear whether they are discussing the policies of the Australian Greens or the policies and campaigns of different sections of what might loosely be called the global ecopax or green movement. After all the Spanish and Australia social-democratic parties call themselves a “Socialist Workers Party” and a “Labor Party” respectively, yet nobody suggests that this makes them similar to the National Socialist German Workers Party or the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.

    (b) More substantively, d might have a point if GM was a silver bullet for Third World poverty, if there were no other practicable means of addressing this issue and/or if the Australian Greens were not advocating such alternative measures. The first point is a matter for legitimate debate, but on the second point there are a raft of policies which ought to be considered to remedy global poverty and inequality, and which are supported by official Australian Greens policies at http://www.greens.org.au.

  18. Paul Norton
    September 28th, 2004 at 14:00 | #18

    Since wilful has mentioned Family First, I’ll offer my hunch on the likely effect of their Greens under the bed TV ads.

    Such ads won’t discourage most potential Green voters from voting Greens. However, they could be quite effective in causing some voters to switch from other parties to Family First.

    This is because a lot of people don’t have a strong understanding of electoral systems, and in some cases have some bizarre conceptions of how electoral systems work, so it is quite possible that some voters, who are already of anti-Green disposition, might be convinced that their vote will count for more as an anti-Green vote if it goes to Family First rather than (e.g.) the Coalition, One Nation or Fred Nile.

    What this will translate into in terms of Senate outcomes is not something I can go into detail about due to time pressures, but it could be unpredictable and counter-intuitive, depending on what other parties and their supporters are doing.

  19. Michael Burgess
    September 28th, 2004 at 14:08 | #19

    Re Paul Norton’s comment. The economic and social costs of relying heavily on refugees to compensate for low replication rates (or skilled Australians migrating overseas) would be massive. If you want a large number of refugees (and I agree we have a moral responsibility to do more)then it would need to be part of large intake of migrants -which would need to contain a large proportion of skilled migrants.

    Re Wilful’s comments on GM agriculture the fact that large companies have a vested interest in a product is hardly new – that is capitalism after all. However, we do need an appropriate regulatory environment (i.e. not one driven solely by self interest or by anti-science environmentalists). As for greens being concerned about third world agriculture give me a break. Why then have they and others such as Community Aid Abroad and a generation of Marxist academics been spreading the most appalling nonsense for years about the so-called evils of India’s green revolution and the growing of cash crops or export crops in general. If it wasn’t for the green revolution India would have had mass famine and the country would have undoubtedly fallen apart. As the founder of Greenpeace has suggested the main driving force behind the analysis of most environmentalists is ideologyrather than concern for the environment or their fellow human beings.

  20. wilful
    September 28th, 2004 at 15:46 | #20

    My essential point is that the putative benefits of GM foods for the third world remain that (putative, unproven), with teh weight of evidence currently against them, while the wider picture of genetic modification demands caution on a world scale.

    And Greens ideology has as great a chance of success as the existing proposals for elimination of poverty. Since we’re not really going forward here.

    Anyway, Paul Norton’s point (b) says it better, it’s not enlightening to look at the issue in a reductionist manner.

    I am still very interested to see what sort of synthesis the greens are going to attempt between “let the hordes come in” and “lets have a sustainable population”.

  21. September 28th, 2004 at 17:25 | #21

    My essential point is that the putative benefits of GM foods for the third world remain that (putative, unproven), with teh weight of evidence currently against them, while the wider picture of genetic modification demands caution on a world scale.

    Well, in that case, your essential point is absolute rubbish. There is no evidence whatsoever against GM foods, but rather an ideological adherence to the “precautionary principle” and a general gray-goo type of doomsday scenario (A big favourite of green groups).

    The rest of the opposition to GM is standard anti-capitalist rhetoric accusing Monsanto of trying to exploit poor farmers by somehow forcing them to buy their seeds.

    Martin: The greens immigration policy is that refugee and family reunion migration should form the bulk of our intake – at the expense of skilled and business migrants. This is quite plainly kooky and a big reason for the strong opposition to the greens among conservative parties.

  22. d
    September 28th, 2004 at 17:29 | #22

    Q
    I have made it very clear that by using the name “Green”, to attract votes the Australian Greens have an ethical obligation to distance themselves clearly from most common policy errors of “Green” groups in general, much as “socialists” had a responsibility for clarifying (till the 1990s) where they stood on common socialist positions such as state control of industries.
    This argument is not guilt by association. It is a call for clarity of position.
    Furthermore, every Green political Group I know campaigns against GM crops or is totally silent on the issue, almost all the former. It would be top page news around the scientific world that The Australian Greens differ from that position and their current policies have been inconsistent with it – have they just changed in the last few days?.

    As far as the specific question you put Q, I do not yet have the answer in full, but the fact that the Australian Greens want a GM moratorium in Australia is itself, advocacy of policies that are partly causing the African’s dilemma. By this I am referring to the fact African nations have been led to believe by EU agencies that their export produce will be refused entry into Europe because of the antiGM moratorium situation in Europe. The Aust Greens are thus clearly endorsing the kind of actions that are causing Africans to refuse GM food aid.

    The issue is clear: all I need to be shown is one clear constructive statement that the Australian Greens have made or have endorsed that is similar to ecologist scientist Peter Raven’s position, in unambiguously supporting the constructive, timely way use of GM technologies to benefit third word peoples, and for minimizing global ecological damage, and a clear acknowledgement that food production is an important component of future food security (rather that the current absurd denials of most Greens that continued technology improvement is needed at all represented say by Mara Bun of Greenpeace saying “we already have enough food, its food distribution thats the problem”). Raven describes this common Green error rightly as “absurd”.

    Eg I’m asking for Australian Green statements equivalent to Raven’s:
    “It is important in this connection to realize that we are estimated currently to be consuming the productive capacity of our planet at 120% of its continuing output. Some 55% of total net terrestrial photosynthetic capacity is currently being used, wasted, or diverted by human beings; in addition, we are consuming an estimated 45% of the total sustainable supplies of fresh water. Our demands for water, about 90% of it used for agriculture, are growing rapidly, while the water table is dropping precipitously across wide areas of north China, India, and elsewhere. For these reasons it is predicted that about half the human population, some 3.5 billion people, will be living in regions facing severe water shortages by 2025. We therefore must find improved crops that can tolerate drought better than those than the strains we cultivate now. Overall, it is estimated that at least two billion additional people are likely to be added to the world population before it can reach stability…”.
    Together with:
    “Like the many other methods that have been used to modify crops since the dawn of agriculture some 10,500 years ago, transgenic methods must be judged on the basis of their products, and not the methods by which they were produced. Idiosyncratic arguments are sometimes presented by those arguing against the adoption of GMOs, presumably for social or other reasons, but the facts reviewed by thousands of independent scientists throughout the world for three decades make this point as certain as any scientific conclusion can be. We should not therefore conduct our discussions of this matter in an atmosphere of murky, imagined threats, but rather in the light of world scientific consensus as to the safety of the methods involved. There is simply no justification for regarding imprecise traditional methods of transferring genetic traits as safe, but modern precise ones as unsafe, and we must more forward from that point as rapidly as possible.”

    I assert such statements are absent from all the main politically active groups of Greens – as I know well as I have been searching for them diligently over the last few years. From your self-professed extensive studies of Australian Greens policy where did you find those statements Q?

    Strangely, then, environmental crises touted by the Greens disappear when it comes to food security for the future, and since this is the almost certainly unanimous Green opinion, it is it is very morally important that Australian Greens make a clear statement of where they stand on it.

    Already we know their stated policies GM are inconsistent with it, so although I would be delighted to learn I am wrong, I don’t expect to find any Australian Green statement that endorses Raven’s position. If they do that, it would alone would justify John Howard’s voting preferences flowing to them, and my opinion of Bob Brown would go up. But what I’ve heard him say so far is muddled nonsense on this.

    BTW You’ll find that Raven is not a JUNK scientist. His CV is on the net and his last position included chairmanship of the American Society for the Advancement of Science. He has numerous honorary doctorates and other accolades.

  23. Mark
    September 28th, 2004 at 22:53 | #23

    Somebody wrote:
    “The Greens regularly characterise Howard as a… “warcriminal”

    As does Former Liberal National President John Valder!

  24. imogen
    September 29th, 2004 at 12:57 | #24

    I take issue with the bigotted assumption above by a few writers that refugees are inherently unskilled and have little to offer us as a country, so we must have a skilled migration program as well.

    Whilst not against the latter, what ignorance and prejudice displayed by the former statement. Having met and being aware of many refugees have arrived in Australia, I do wonder just how many Australians realise that we have qualified professionals and people with rich non-professional experience coming to Australia as refugees. And there are thousands more currently in limbo on Temporary Protective Visas, reduced to menial labour to survive, and unable to contribute their skills to our community. In light of this, the Greens policy makes a lot of sense.

    I have to laugh at Jack Strocchi’s assertions that Howard is somehow owed Kudos for Afghanistan – ah yes, where we supported the carpet bombing and use of daisy cutters to destroy what pitiful infrastructure there was and trhe deaths of thousands of civilians, aided in the obstruction of critical food aid reaching millions of starving Afghanis, and proudly helped replace a bunch of bloody funadamentalist warlords – with a bunch of bloody fundamentalist warlords. But hey, opium poppy production is sky-rocketing!

    D,

    I’m not going to go round the merry-go-round again with you on GM safety, but in response to your ‘crimes against humanitty’ statements re: food aid –

    If those offering the food-aid were truly concerned with the imminent death by starvation of millions, they would have swiftly offered an alternative food supply, not declared ‘this or nothing’ – which is what the US did. The EU supplied non-GM food aid in response to several countries.

    Expecting a country to make a decision about going GM or not at a time of crisis, and holding millions hostage to the decision is morally reprehensible, far more so than any green party urging African nations to stand by their right to self-determination, not be held hostage by a crisis.

    Imogen

  25. September 29th, 2004 at 14:22 | #25

    “He has numerous honorary doctorates and other accolades”

    d!! Really, c’mon, honorary doctorates are a huge fraud, and should rightly be seen as worth absolutely zilch. Not taking issue with the rest of your post, just this pet hate.

  26. d
    October 1st, 2004 at 03:14 | #26

    Imogen,
    I have just explained how the “conventional” food corn used currently by the Africans because of contamination with chemicals produced by fungi called fuminosins, is proven medically to cause cancer, hepatitis and birth defects, and also that the GM food aid, free of fuminosins, offers a scientifically documented way of avoiding those health and death hazards.
    What I cannot understand is how the actions you describe enable the Africans to avoid those medically serious and scientifically documented risks, and why it is morally acceptable, as you seem to be doing, to promote death, cancer and birth defects in a poor African population by denying them the safer GM food.
    Please explain why it is morally acceptable, to take the more hazardous path you seem to be advocating. Do you perhaps not follow or understand, or agree with the medical literature on fungal toxins (fuminosins) in corn food used in Africa and China?

    These corn toxin problems of course are also animal welfare issues, and where large amounts of corn is used as animal feeds, animal health and mortality is affect by this risk, and in the past (around 2000 season) this was a big problem in non GM corn exports from North America. Eventually, exports of corn and meat from Africa to places like the EU will be stopped if the don’t use GM corn, on animal welfare considerations, and general mistreatment of farm animals world wide by denying them safer GM feed corn will addressed, and I don’t deny the importance of animal welfare, but in my view, the human food safety issues in Africa and parts of China are more urgent.
    As I said, there is a large medical literature on this subject, easily accessible by PubMed search service on the web at NCBI. The subject is completely within my profesional expertise, by the way, and I teach Microbiology at a large University Microbiology department so I am up to date on this subject.

  27. imogen
    October 1st, 2004 at 14:26 | #27

    D,

    I responded to your first post concerning food-aid where you ridiculously accused “Greens” of ‘crimes against humanity’, while (as seems to be characteristic in your posts), ignoring any other source of responsibility for averting the food crisis in African states.

    My point was quite simple –

    if people are starving, give them safe, clean food. If they don’t consider GM food to be safe and have unresolved issues regarding the use of GM crops in their countries, don’t use food aid to starving thousands as a club to smash through their right to self-determination. Put that debate aside for a less pressing time, and do the moral thing, provide them with non-GM food aid.

    Your arguments would carry so much more merit if you weren’t utterly, ridiculously and fatally blind to the politics of food aid except as a focus for your anti-green anger. If you weren’t so focussed on that, perhaps you’d take more issue on the USA using food aid as a convenient cover by which to introduce GM crops into already desparate nations. That’s not assistance, that’s blackmail at it’s lowest.

    I presume you’re aware also that you entirely changed topics from food-aid to food production over the course of your posts, which is why your diatribe above about the safety of corn in Afria makes no sense in response to my original post.

    If what you are trying to say is that Western countries keep supplying African nations with corn & other food aid that is sub-standard, there is another answer to that beside GM – give them the food we eat, not the trash we reject.

    On food production, what I find profoundly disappointing is you can quote the salient problem from the likes of Raven, but fail to put two and two together. Modern monocropping, large-scale, high input farming techniques is what has brought the world to a global food crisis, by destroying our soils, polluting and overusing our surface- and ground- water supplies, destroying biodiveristy, destroying seed banks which preserved our crop diversity. Such methods rely heavily on the so-called ‘scientific’ methods of farming which see designer fertilisers, seeds, fossil-fuel guzzling machinery, herbicides, pesticides, irrigation systems, yadda yadda yadda. They are destroying the productivity of the planet.

    On top of that, we have focussed our agricultural efforts on producing excess meat for consumption in the west and other non-essential products to drive an ever-increasing consumption-based economy. Agriculture is now export, market & profit-oriented – the exact opposite of what it needs to be. The amount of land and water and foosil fuels it wastes to produce fashion and other commodities is staggering, and appalling.

    What you fail to see is that GM is simply an extension of that system. It is based on corporate profit; it is based on mono-croppnig large-scale, high mechanical, high input farming aimed at the export market. It has nothing to do with preserving & ensuring renewable productivity or biodiversity, let alone enhancing them.

    GM companies break the law, repeatedly. They steal and patent biological controls that belong to everyone, such as Bt, and freely acknowledge that their wide application through their crops will render Bt ultimately useless as a pest fighter. They don’t care. They’ll just patent and monopolise the next splice that maintains the profit margin, and be thrilled that everyone is now dependent on their technology, if they have their way.

    If you truly want to see food security, you’ll spend a hell of a lot more time researching small-scale mixed farming, methods of promoting it, community-supported agriculture, organic and biodynamic methods, urban agriculture etc. etc. They are the only systems that have consistently maintained and improved productivity, biodiversity, topsoil, renewability. But they are of course derided, ignored, attacked, because you can’t make a huge profit as a massive corporation from small-scale mixed bio/organic farming. That removes your market of beholden farmers borrowing to buy your sterilised, hybridised seed to grow enough to pay the rent to your fat-cat landowner and buy a pitiful amount of food for the family. Hell, it might let people break out of the cycle of growing cash crops like cotton, tabacco, cut flowers, canola. And we can’t have that, no, not at all.

  28. imogen
    October 1st, 2004 at 14:36 | #28

    PS

    food distribution is a huge part of the problem. The average fruit & vegetable you and I eat has travelled hundreds if not thousands of kilmotres, all too-often been snap-frozen and stored, rendering it’s vitamen content useless, and costing us hugely in energy consumption.

    I once stood on a dock with a wharfie in Sydney. He pointed to a shipping container being loaded onto a boat and asked me what I thought was in it. He told me ‘brown onions grown here, being exported to (I foget what country)’. Then we walked to the other side of the dock where shipping containers were being unloaded off a vessel and asked me what I thought was in them. He told me ‘brown onions, grown in [somewhere in Sth American] being imported here’.

    I’ve stood in northern indian markets and seen bananas grown in Ecuador, when two states below is India’s largest producer of – bananas. In rich countries we throw tanties if a huge diversity of fruit and vegetable and grains is not available to us, whatever the cost, and back in the producing countries, millions are malnourished.

    Simple illustrations of just how profoundly retarded our food trading and distribtution is, and it is very much part of the problem.

  29. d
    October 1st, 2004 at 17:04 | #29

    Imogen,

    I would not quite as far as saying that the crime against humanity has yet fully occurred, but it is definitely in train: unless we see a remarkable change in this ongoing train of events that is now very apparent, we are in the middle of a crime that will take perhaps 5-10 years to unfold.

    However you do not acknoledge clearly that the serious concern about “crimes against humanity” being perpetrated by the anti-Gm lobby groups on these issues is not an accusation that originated with me: I am merely repeating concerns, that I fully agree with, and understand well, that have been made by Professor Raven (who quite likely was the author of your very own first year University Biology text or maybe your Ecology text, so he’s no JUNK biological scientist –check his detailed CV on the net ), and he made these considered and documented remarks deliberately in a formal forum on moral issues at the Vatican a few days ago; your characterisation of them as “rediculous” is a very poor defence.
    Such serious remarks have also been made with repect to Green groups who have tried to stop Golden rice being made available to the third world by Professor Ingo Potrykus of Switzerland, and I believe he too has a strong case.

    And finally ,I myself fully believe that the Green inspired campaign to completely ban DDT in South Africa falls in similar “crime of gross negligence against humanity” category to the banning of GM corn.

    And if you think I would make and repeat and support such an accusations as a smear, rather than as deeply held and carefully researched concern about the actual consequences of politically slipshod Green policies , you completely misunderstand the direction I am coming from. I held that it is a high moral principle to hold Green extremist, and their less extreme coalition partners, fully accountable for the consequences of their actions. Let me quote the best justification:

    Martin Niemoeller
    The Failure to Speak Up Against the Nazis

    This quotation is often cited incorrectly. The exact phrasing was supplied by Sibylle Sarah Niemoeller von Sell, Martin Niemoeller’s wife. The remark was made in reply to a student’s question, “How could it happen?”

    “First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”

    Now’s the time to speak out.

    Another of reasons I hold most Green groups accountable for the acts of Green extremists is very pragmatic and practical, and are well explianed by Frank Divine in today’s Australian , and in his recent Quadrant article , and are illustrated by the politics of your own state of Tasmania, where in actual Parliamentary Green coalitions, the less radical members of the Greens, were, as Devine describes, completely captured by the extremists. Are we to expect this to suddenly stops in the Federal Parliament?

    Now you make many other assumptions that I do not agree with, so it will take I very long time to settle the score if I tackled them all, but Ill deal with just one now.

    I completely disagree (as a very experienced applied geneticist) with the common Green doctine that GM is somehow inextricably connected with monoculture agriculture. This is completely misleading and factually inaccurate, and shows how little contact many “Greens” have with the actual practice of modern crop breeding. Their errors though are fully understandable if Green education about biology consist of uncritical readings reading environmentalist tracts. I can assure very few of these are sound professional science (eg Mae Wan Hos “genetic Engineering Dream of Nightmare? Gateway1998 that I am rereading today, or Greenpeace s website literature are clearly not).

    GM methods actually have an intrinsic capacity to used to increase crop diversity.

    Most relevantly, GM or rec-DNA can directly and simply exploited to deliberately increase diversity in the most important disease resistance traits. I won’t bore you with the details, as you’r educated enough to figure that out for yourelf, if you tried.

    As you know “Recombination” is the name for the natural processes that leads to greater genetic diversity. Rec-DNA is the other name for GM.

    I know that you might come back and point out, but yes, I concede those points, but the commercial practices the seed corporations will inevitably favour monoculture if they do GM. This is fallacious too.

    Let me refute it by pointing out the actual current situation with commercially bred GM soybeans in the US, which are not monocultures (at least about 70 varieties in use, I can cite precise numbers if you like) , and GM has in fact recently facilitated AN INCREASE in biodiversity for this crop.

    Thus although I fully agree with you that promotion of biodiversity in crops is a very worthy aim, I would prefer that we were discussing the many ideas I could share with you about how GM is assisting or could assist higher crop diversity.

    If these arguments are new to you (you don’t make it obvious that you’ve heard them before), thenn you haven’t been diligent enough in your research.

    Now I can sense that you are outraged that I should have serious moral criticisms to make about environmental zealots. Well consider this: they are mostly the same people who go around raging about the crimes of others – you know what I mean – Monsanto, Nesle and milk, unprincipled scientists in the companies’ pocket etc etc. So why isn’t it fully appropriate to expect some ethical accountability for political actions of such groups who so easily accuse others of evil crimes. It would by hypocritical to have double standard wouldn’t it?

  30. d
    October 1st, 2004 at 17:28 | #30

    PS Imogen
    A few other small points

    You mention food AID politics as an issue that I apparently am not fully addressing – Answer Maybe so, but how much do I have to type; and since when have the actions of Green lobby groups -which I do address- not been politics!

    Food Distribution issues – Have I ever claimed better food distibution is not worthy of attention – food security is such a hugh multiply faceted problem and in my humble opinion all aspects of it should be tackled and encouraged with an open mind, something I question that you are doing. Somehow certain technology approach are ruled out.

    Imperfections in the evil capitist world

    Chapter 6 of Richard Overy’s The Dictators, that I’ve just read – is called Constructing Utopia. Read it, and the whole book, and then tell me you still confident the next Utopia you imagine won’t have even more imperfections than our current liberal-democracy. Your arguments have impefections too. The solution is to allow forthright honest debate, that we’ve just had, and eventually a better more realistic vision of the way forward will emerge, including many of your own worthy ideas I’d hope, but also mine, and even Qs.

  31. d
    October 2nd, 2004 at 05:56 | #31

    A full copy of Raven’s “Crimes Against Humanity” speech at the Vatican is at the URL below

    http://www.agbioworld.org/biotech_info/articles/religious.html

    so Imogen can explain better why it may or may not be ridiculous to talk about possible crimes against humanity by Greens. Prof Quiggin may well wish to offer a judgment after looking at the full transcript as to whether the Speaker Raven is scientifically sound, and call on any of his scientist friends to offer their judgements on his credentials to make such judgments. Since Professor Cory at The Hall Institute in Melbourne has a similar standing to Raven in connection to the Vatican, Q may even wish to seek her considered response to Raven’s speach, or perhaps he’d rather call on Peter Doherty, or maybe Adrienne Clark, or perhaps Jim Peacock to get their judgement calls and then post their replies and opinions on Green GM policies. I’ve taken the trouble to seek out their opinions on these matters already by the way.

    Then perhaps we could return to analysing Imogens implications that the whole issue is ridiculous, and to the immorality of the Green position on Gm food Trade.

    http://www.agbioworld.org/biotech_info/articles/religious.html

    BTW Imogen, I noticed this morning on Agbioview “As India looks to double its food grain production to 400 million tonnes by 2020, research is under way to develop transgenic crops by state-owned organisations as well as globally funded organisations like IRRI and the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). ICRISAT has been responsible for releasing 150 varieties of quality crops in India, according to William D Dar, director general of the Andhra Pradesh centre.”

    So I guess many Indians , with little free land , feel differently to rich comfortable Tasmanians about whether this technology, trade and moral issue is ridiculous.

  32. imogen
    October 3rd, 2004 at 11:00 | #32

    D,

    I asked my uncle what he thought of the DDT debate. He is chief scientist, an aquatic ecologist, for an organistaion who’s job it is to fly all over the Indonesian and PNG archipeligo reducing malarial mosquitos. His response was that the ecological and human side effects of DDT, DDE & DDE were being increasingly found to be significant,as the results of their persistance in soil and water and in animal fatty tissues over 30+ years were being better understood. He related several an array of personal observations and study he’s done & strongly believes that the persistence of DDT is what was underestimated in terms of it’s impact, both on human health & ecology.

    I’m inclined to agree with him that the phasing out of DDT is essential, but when the ban was first pushed for, cheap, effective & benign water-borne mosquito larvae kilers had not been fully developed (what he uses know, to great effect). The only thing DDT had going for it is it’s cheapness. Again, if the West is truly concerned with a) reducing human death via malaria and b) not potentially destroying ecosystems to do it, it will do what my uncle’s employer does (a mining company) and cough for the more expensive treatments.

    You fail to note that DDT was the only chemical over which there was any dispute with the recent global agreement to phase out 11 other POPs with well documented catastrophic effects on humans & environment. A ban lobbied for by those dastardly greens – 11/12 ain’t bad.

    Btw, this will be my last response to you, as your own extremism and irrationalality doesn’t merit any more. I wonder if you’ve stopped to note the irony that the majority of the groups Niemoeller so famously noted in their tragic resistance to the Nazis were left – right where the green movement sits.

    And while we’re on this, just out of interest:

    -do you hold the American libertarian movement responsible for the 3 zealots who carried out the Oklahoma bombing?

    – do you hold the entire Australian military responsible for the individual who colluded with covering up torture in Abu Ghraib?

    – do you understand the difference between hierarchical and non-heriarchical power structures?

    – do you understand that what people might call themselves (eg conservative, liberal, green) in no way guarantees that their actions reflect the philosphies and principles we traditionally ascribe to those labels?

    Raven & the Vatican – ah yes, that bastion of moral righteousness, one of the most poisonous, backward, misogynistic, political forces the world has ever seen, the Vatican. That is the third biggest property owner in the world & one of the richest. Get back to me when they start handing over the land & billions they posses to the thousands of poor they claim to represent.

    Raven may well be an honest man of conviction, but that hardly makes him above mistakes. And given you’ve been deathly silent on my repeated point, that an easy way to stop Africans from starving over GM is to offer them non-GM food and solve the debate outside the context of a food crisis, I see no compelling reason for me to offer any further text on this. Your reliance on heirarchal authority to back your claims is duly noted though.

    And since you’re so fond of them, and trotting out references to people writing ploemics on food security and the need for GM, I presume you’ve taken note of the FAO’s position which is that GM is not necessary to reach its stated food security goals, and it continues to emphasise much more basic and essential reforms. Given the FAO cuatiously supports GM & represents the most’ centralist’ views of agriculture (being a global consensus structure), I’ll quote the Director -General Diouf:

    ” Regarding the fight against hunger, the 1996 World Food Summit committed FAO Members to reducing by half the number of hungry persons in the world by 2015. In speeches, interviews, and press conferences, I have always reflected the discussions of the WFSt: firstly, by indicating that the lack of political will and of mobilization of financial resources are the main obstacle to meeting this goal. Implementation of concrete projects in poor communities in rural and peri-urban areas are the priority for ensuring food production, employment and income, and thus achieving sustainable food security. These projects should emphasize:

    small water harvesting, irrigation and drainage works (wells, canals, impoundments, treadle pumps, etc.). The other FAO annual report, The State of Food Insecurity 2003, indicated that 80% of food crises are related in some way to water, especially to drought. Yet Africa, for example, only uses 1.6% of its available water resources for irrigation.

    the use of improved seeds and seedlings, particularly those issued from the Green Revolution and conventional plant breeding and tissue culture; the combination of organic and chemical fertilizer in soils that are no longer placed under fallow and are now depleted due to population pressure and clearly deficient in plant-available phosphorus; the integrated biological control of pests, insects and plant diseases without making excessive use of pesticides and complying with the PIC Agreement negotiated under the auspices of UNEP and FAO; and simple post-harvest technologies;

    diversification of village and household farming systems, with the introduction of short-cycle animal production (poultry, sheep, goats, pigs) and the provision of feed, vaccine and shelter; artisanal fisheries and small-scale aquaculture;
    the construction of rural roads, local markets and storage and packing facilities, meeting quality and sanitary standards;
    the negotiation of more equitable terms for international agricultural trade.

    I have always maintained that GMOs are not needed to achieve the World Food Summit objective: improved seeds and plant material generated by international agricultural research centres, particularly within the framework of the Green Revolution and by national research systems, including hybrids and varieties from inter-specific breeding are barely used by the smallholders of the Third World.

    In the meantime, I have always drawn attention to the need to feed a world population that will increase from a current six billion people to nine billion in 2050, requiring a 60% increase in food production, while expanding the arable land area is becoming increasingly unfeasible because urbanization, industrial expansion and transport infrastructure is encroaching upon rural land and deforestation and the cultivation of fragile ecosystems are causing soil degradation. Such a situation will require intensified cultivation, higher yields and greater productivity.

    With this in mind, we will have to use the scientific tools of molecular biology, in particular the identification of molecular markers, genetic mapping and gene transfer for more effective plant enhancement, going beyond the phenotype-based methods. Decisions on the rules and utilization of these techniques must however be taken at the international level by competent bodies such as the Codex Alimentarius.

    The developing countries should not only take part in the decision-making, but should also develop their scientific capacity and master the necessary expertise and techniques so that they can understand the implications and make independent choices in order to reach an international consensus on issues that concern all of humanity. FAO provides support to the countries of the Third World to this end and will continue to do so.

    Finally, in contrast to the Green Revolution which was generated by international public research and provided national research systems with improved genetic material, at no expense, biotechnology research is essentially driven by the world’s top ten transnational corporations, which are spending annually US$3 billion.

    By comparison, the CGIAR system, the largest international public sector supplier of agricultural technologies for developing countries has a total annual budget of less than US$300 million. The private sector protects its results with patents in order to earn from its investment and it concentrates on products that have no relevance to food in developing countries.

    FAO, in accordance with its mandate, will continue to provide a framework for ensuring a dialogue on these issues at the international level. Such a dialogue should be based on sound scientific principles allowing the analysis of socio-economic implications as well as sanitary and environmental issues. ”

    So there it is in black and white, all the main issues that dastardly greens raise as concerns regarding GM being echoed by the FAO, namely:

    *they are not needed to cure world hunger and contain largely unassessed risks on a range of fronts

    *their development is being controlled by private companies for profit, not by public organisations who will make any benefits available for free’

    * international trade & research capacity remains inequitable and has significant impact on the ability of develpoing nations to choose wisely.

    I work with farmers every day, and have studied both traditional and alternative forms of agriculture in the field and ‘academically’. I grew up on a small farm surrounded by farmers. I have more than a passing knowledge of farming techniques & farming realities, enough to know that you don’t, really. I’d surmise that your narrow view of the world through the lense of a geneticist has an awful lot to do with that. You clearly know nothing of the realities of agriculture in the developing world, bar from what you read in pro-GM magazines, which carry articles submitted by peak bodies, not the grass-roots. Your lack of logic shows in assuming that the millions of disadvantaged Indian farmers have any choice about what crops they receive, and/or the information they are given to guide their ‘choice’.

    Let me quote Oxfam, whose highly successful projects to empower impoverished farmers and provide food security and clean water I’ve witnessed in India, Mexico and Indonesia:

    “There is a world food crisis. Currently 790 million people are undernourished and around one third of the world’s children go to bed hungry. But their lack of food security is primarily caused by low incomes and unequal access to land, water, credit, and markets. [1] There is no crisis of world food production on the horizon, despite environmental problems and a growing world population. Hunger will only be eliminated if governments and international organisations such as the World Trade Organisation implement substantial policy changes in favour of resource redistribution, poverty reduction, and food security. Technological fixes alone, such as genetically modified (GM) crops, cannot solve this problem, despite the claims which have been made for them. [2]

    The impact of GM crops for people in poverty, particularly in developing countries, could be negative. GM crops and related technologies are likely to consolidate control over agriculture by large producers and agro-industrial companies, to the detriment of smaller farmers.

    Leaving aside risk factors, GM crops could be of some benefit to poor farmers in the longer term if applications are directed to their needs and if intellectual property rules do not channel all the gains to companies. These conditions do not apply at present and require government action.

    There may be gains to low-income consumers flowing from reduced crop prices, if there are not effective monopolies in the supply chain. On the health and environmental side, we believe there is not yet sufficient scientific evidence to allow the commercial production of GM crops and that the ‘precautionary principle’ should be adopted. [3] Regulation and monitoring in developing countries must be considerably enhanced if consumers and the environment are to be properly protected.

    World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules are relevant to GM crops since they limit countries’ rights 1) to restrict production and trade of GM products, or to introduce mandatory labelling of foods, and 2) to design their own intellectual property legislation.

    Negotiation and enforcement of other international agreements is needed, especially in order to safeguard farmers’ seed saving rights, public health, and environmental resources. These agreements include the Convention on Biodiversity and the Biosafety Protocol, which a number of key countries, including the USA, have not ratified.”

    Agriculture, ecology and the politics of development are rich fields to mine for many examples of narrow scientific views resulting in inadvertant disasters. Extremists on both sides of the GM debate may well see us witness another one. I’ve not once disagreed with you that some who call themselves ‘green’ are irresponsible criminals, but your food aid example is not one of them. What you represent is the other extreme, someone so invested in and pro-GM that you have demonstrated a complete inability to consider the negative implications that are being discussed with as much vigour and transparency as possible.

    I’ll finish with a link to an older but still telling Oxfam round-up (excusing the pun) of the state of global affairs re: GM

    http://www.oxfam.org.uk/what_we_do/issues/livelihoods/biotech_gm.htm

    (note: some of it is out-of date, particularly in relation to current international treaties and property rights)

    It covers – key developments in the technology, benefits, research directions vs food security research required, socioeconomi impact, property rights, biopiracy, conservation & sustainabile agriculture, environmental health impact.

  33. d
    October 3rd, 2004 at 16:32 | #33

    RE “And given you’ve been deathly silent on my repeated point, that an easy way to stop Africans from starving over GM is to offer them non-GM food and solve the debate outside the context of a food crisis, I see no compelling reason for me to offer any further text on this.”

    Imogen, as there are so many of your points that I disagree with that I’ve been silent about, I would suggest that you do not attach any significance to me not tackling the above point so far.

    Indeed, I dont agree that the substitution you so find so facile to demand of food donors is actually easy, safe or ethical. You must be aware that the US food AID offered to the Africans may well be GM free, or it may not be – the Americans do not segregate two types of corn, and mandating separation to enure a claim of GM free is true would require a substantial delay and an audit trail and so on, and this would be costly and too late to address to starvation problems. And if you demand that the US by it from elswhere, I’d offer the counter more moral suggestion : those who demand this should donate the funds themselves and put their money where their mouths are.

    I question strongly the morally of creating delays in food aid delivery during a famine.
    Your argument is to reject food aid during a famine and demand the donors substitute their donation with a more costly, not easily available, ont immediately available, more toxic alternative doesn’t seem very ethical to me.

    I’m disappointed also that you don’t acknowledge political actions of pushing toxic food of African by political pressures (by the EU and Green Groups) is immoral. However I am pleased that by your strenuous rhetorical efforts to distance different Green groups from one another your are indirectly showing by your emotional comments that you do in fact understand the basic horrible immorality of poisoning of Africans by Green-EU collusion, and are thus not in complete denial, so at least my point there has been made.

    Thanks for FAO Director Diof’s quotes: yes I’d noted them before (even posted them if I recall correctly – glad you’re reading them) but in citing them you didn’t seem to understand FAOs support for the importance, even essential role, of GM technology in the medium to longer term, and you seem only to have noted the relevance his remarks about the immediate situation. My argument in fact relate to longer term food sustainability over the next few decades, and are endorsed by the FAO.

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