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Sandpit

December 14th, 2013

A new sandpit for long side discussions, idees fixes and so on.

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  1. spottedquoll
    December 14th, 2013 at 09:53 | #1

    Now here’s a thought, while discussion continues on when and if the Libs will put Abbott to the sword spare a thought for their coalition colleagues. How much fun would politics be in this country if the Libs reinstalled Mal and the Nats kicked out Wazza and installed Barnyard Barnaby?

  2. Neil Hanrahan
    December 14th, 2013 at 09:54 | #2

    Just heard from a brilliant science journalist (with PhD and post-doc research of significance) about the deal done between Sarkozy and the French Greens. The latter would go easy on nuclear (which France uses for 80 per cent of its electricity, from memory) and Sarkozy would beat up the non-existing case against GM crops. (I would have assumed it had to do with the French maintaining protection for their agriculture at the expense of everyone else, and their own urban taxpayers, in the EU but that might have been just a political bonus). As a result heard about the scandalous pseudo-science used to support the French position which a lot of sciience journalists who ought to have known better, collaborated in. They were given the feed on an article to be published by one Sérafini et al. allegedly showing that the innocence of GM crops had been wrongly assumed because all the rats used in the research had been young. The new news was supposed to be that if you used older rats in the tests you found a greater carcinogenic tendency which presumably resulted from their consumption of GM soybean meal. A whole lot of the gullible and careless and politically (?religiously) motivated Greens leapt on this and the journos even made the promise, in return for the early feed, not to discuss the paper with GM experts….. The research actually recorded the fact that there did appear to be a slight (possible) carcinogenic effect from low dose GM soybean in the diet but, at three times the dose there was actually a negative (apparent) effect!

    At this stage a new rationalisation was wheeled in: there must be a dose effect!

  3. Donald Oats
    December 14th, 2013 at 10:07 | #3

    In today’s paper, there is a story that the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia could be brought back onto the table, presumably to assist with reducing the (political) damage of the GMH closure announcement. What I’d like to know is if money is being put on the table as an enticement to BHP to resume the work on the site, or what exactly has made BHP even reconsider. It surely isn’t the high dollar, and it is hard to see why BHP would give two hoots over who is in power—unless they can get something out of it. Now I’m not suggesting there is anything wrong with BHP taking money on offer (assuming there is money on offer), but if it is the case, I’d wonder at the asymmetry of the government not subsidising an existing car manufacturing industry while creating a new subsidy for another big industry player to conduct mining operations. Again, perhaps I’m too cynical.

  4. Megan
    December 14th, 2013 at 10:22 | #4

    @Neil Hanrahan

    Recently you mentioned a figure of something like 70% of CO2 being non-human activity related (IIRC), can you provide your source?

    Also, the problem was not the age of the rats used but rather the fact that long term effects were not measured originally. The cancer correlation arose over a longer period – hence the results in “old” rats.

  5. Hermit
    December 14th, 2013 at 11:16 | #5

    The Olympic Dam mine expansion was knocked on the head due to ‘high input costs’. There was to be a desalination plant and pipeline at Whyalla some 300 km away but conservationists protested that stretch of coast was an important breeding for giant cuttlefish. The mine itself was to get a 250 MW gas fired air cooled power station with an even greater amount drawn from the grid. The gas pipe would have been over 400 km if I recall. Since a giant open cut was proposed to replace the underground mine the diesel fuel bill was enormous, some 19 gigalitres over the mine life if I recall. There was talk of using conveyor belts instead of trucks and hosing acid over piles of ore (‘heap leaching’) to reduce costs.

    Apart from a massive cash handout Holden style I don’t see what can be done to improve the economics of Olympic Dam. Until the Japanese nukes restart the uranium price will be subdued as are the prices for copper and gold. However there are a number of other prospective mines out that way so the power and water problem needs to be solved.

    Note as in France there is a nukular-greenie alliance since BHP maintain a reserve next to OD for endangered bilbies and other cute critters.

  6. Neil Hanrahan
    December 14th, 2013 at 15:00 | #6

    @Megan

    I would be interested in links which would tend to undermine my second-hand (or is it third-hand) account of the science underlying my secondhand account of the Sarkozy-Greens deal and the less-than-admirable handling of the story by journalists. I only know that my source is someone that I have high regard for.

    As for my saying (I take your word for it) “70% of CO2 being non-human activity” I can’t say anything much off the cuff but would seek to start by a bit of definition to start with. There is a very small percentage of the atmosphere which consists of CO2, though large in numbers of tons if one applies everyday comparisons. Quite a lot of it will be taken up within the next growing seasons by plants, especially forests, and quite a lot of the net increase, year on year, will result from emissions from the oceans (which, after all, contain about 2-300 times as much CO2 as the atmosphere and a similar disproportion in total mass). These emissions are a natural result of CO2 which dissolves in the cold waters of the higher latitudes being emitted in the warm waters of the tropics (though how long it takes for a molecule to travel from 50 degrees north to 5 degrees north I have no idea). The amounts differ from year to year just as El Ninos, La Ninas and the various oceanic Oscillations are not uniform over time. So…. I know that some heretics have been suggesting that most of the *increase* in CO2 year on year results from some (presumably) far-from-novel change in the amounts of CO2 being emitted from the oceans. I suppose that 70 per cent figure allows for the huge proportion of fossil fuel derived CO2 which is a result of burning forests in the tropics, particularly in Indonesia. (Apparently that dwarfs the emissions of coal fuelled power stations).

    If you want some heretic discussion of such matters you could do a search for “Jo Nova” “Murry Salby” “Tom Quirk”. None of it, i.e. what one can learn about what science tells us reliably, could make decisions for and by Australians essentially different from the moral ones which cause some people investing for their retirement to avoid investing in tobacco companies: in short, it won’t do anything useful for anyone but it seems like the morally right thing to do.

  7. Megan
    December 14th, 2013 at 15:33 | #7

    @Neil Hanrahan

    I didn’t recall correctly, after all. To quote you exactly:

    Like almost everyone I haven’t had time to read and digest and follow up the work done to demonstrate that the increase in CO2 emissions over the last 70 years has come from warming seas rather than from fossil fuel emissions.

    But if your source is Nova, Salby etc…, never mind.

  8. Neil Hanrahan
    December 14th, 2013 at 18:30 | #8

    @Megan

    Thanks Megan. Can you give me a good link to someone with suitable qualifications giving the corrrect figure, with reasons? Jo Nova isn’t a scienitist but Murry Salby, whom I only heard of recently, seems to be one with appropriate qualifications but a very odd person indeed. (But so are half the scientists I know). Quirk certainly was in the right kind of business as a scientist, and I suppose his being retired and unaffiliated now at least exempts him from suspicion that he is doing it for money (for research or otherwise) from business or government. But someone must have said something credible on the subject that is easy enough to find…… I was about to say “over to you” but then did the obvious and started looking closer to home. Someone gave me a copy of “Taxing Air – Facts and Fallacies About Climate Change” a few weeks ago but it has sat looking accusingly at me except for me trying once or twice to read the rather good looking graphs and other graphics that it has in abundance and finding that I need a magnifying glass. Can’t find anything there (but I am reminded to see if it has been reviewed *credibly* and perhaps have another look).

    So I put “where does CO2 come from” into a search engine and, inter alia, I find this
    http://science.blurtit.com/272219/where-does-carbon-dioxide-in-the-air-come-from

    I think that says about 92 per cent comes from non manmade sources so, take it as your starting point perhaps for hunting down the heretics. It doesn’t seem to be a problem to accept such facts or factoids if one recognises that one is dealing with very small quantities and marginal increases on any view. It certainly isn’t an exact analogy but we don’t think it makes sense for people to say “the waters north of the Arctic circle have never fallen in temperature more than half a degree below zero degrees Celsius – or more than three degrees C within a three month period so how can we regard the lowering of temperature as significant” [or some such adapted for 100 degrees C]. So, I suspect that the manmade emissions, even including the forest burnings, are indeed very small proportionately, but what follows from that still remains to be determined.

    Now I have done a search for reviews of “Taxing Air – Facts etc.” and they looked to be all favourable so I went to the most likely credible link which was Amazon.com and there the favourable reviews (there were 39 in all) predominated, giving a 4.4 out of 5 score FWIW. The only seriously critical one was from a chap who seems to be a computer technician with a passionate interest in ancient Thrace… Perhaps its time to read it and make up my own mind.

  9. Neil Hanrahan
    December 14th, 2013 at 18:34 | #9

    @Megan

    Oh, yes, to repeat: can you give me more about the experiments on the rats?

  10. Megan
    December 14th, 2013 at 19:43 | #10

    @Neil Hanrahan

    The study you are thinking of is ‘Seralini’, it was GM maize (corn) and as I said the difference was the length of rat lifetime studied not the age of the rats used, per se.

    The study found that rats fed for two years with Monsanto’s glyphosate-resistant NK603 maize (corn) developed many more tumours and died earlier than controls. It also found that the rats developed tumours when glyphosate (Roundup), the herbicide used with GM maize, was added to their drinking water.

    The ‘pro-GM’ studies and those used to ‘prove’ that GM is safe typically monitored over something like 90 days.

  11. Neil Hanrahan
    December 14th, 2013 at 22:20 | #11

    Thanks Megan. When I next find 48 hours in a day I’ll try and get round to posing what you say to the science journalist in question. I am a bit puzzled however, because you spell the name “Seralini” which I carefully checked to be “Sérafini”…. Except that I seem to remember a slide used by the journalist in question which used a different spelling, once, and it may have been “Seralini”. Wouldn’t it be good to have an extra lifetime in which to chase these things down.

  12. Megan
    December 15th, 2013 at 00:31 | #12

    @Neil Hanrahan

    You only need about 30 seconds to find that the scientist’s name is:

    Gilles-Éric Séralini

    Unless you are thinking of someone else?

  13. Megan
    December 15th, 2013 at 00:37 | #13

    How carefully did you check that, Neil?

    I can’t find anything relating to science + serafini.

    Of course I didn’t check with experts like Jo Nova, so I could be completely right (I mean “wrong”).

  14. Chris W
    December 15th, 2013 at 15:54 | #14

    @Megan,

    “I didn’t check with experts like Jo Nova, so I could be completely right”

    Best. One-liner. Evah. 🙂

  15. Mel
    December 15th, 2013 at 20:03 | #15

    The Seralini study was a sham and after and unprecedented letter of disgust from six of France’s science academies, the paper was retracted.

  16. Mel
    December 15th, 2013 at 20:12 | #16

    It is also worth noting that the Seralini hoax study used “Sprague-Dawley” rats. These rats only live for two years at the best of times and more than three-quarters of them die naturally from …. cancer!

    In an ideal world, Gilles-Éric Séralini and Andrew Wakefield would be bunk buddies in the same jail cell.

  17. Megan
    December 15th, 2013 at 20:27 | #17

    Strange then that the GM fed rats had higher tumour incidence. If the breed of rat was an issue they’d all have tumours at about the same rate. The logic doesn’t stack up for that line of criticism.

  18. Mel
    December 15th, 2013 at 20:37 | #18

    “Strange then that the GM fed rats had higher tumour incidence.”

    Sigh.

    Inform yourself about the flaws in the study and why it was eventually retracted.

  19. Megan
    December 15th, 2013 at 20:45 | #19

    I did that.

    This is from the establishment’s statement (“Elsevier”):

    The request to view raw data is not often made; however, it is in accordance with the journal’s policy that authors of submitted manuscripts must be willing to provide the original data if so requested.[2] The corresponding author agreed and supplied all material that was requested by the Editor-in-Chief. The Editor-in-Chief wishes to acknowledge the co-operation of the corresponding author in this matter, and commends him for his commitment to the scientific process.

    Unequivocally, the Editor-in-Chief found no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data. However, there is a legitimate cause for concern regarding both the number of animals in each study group and the particular strain selected. The low number of animals had been identified as a cause for concern during the initial review process, but the peer review decision ultimately weighed that the work still had merit despite this limitation. A more in-depth look at the raw data revealed that no definitive conclusions can be reached with this small sample size regarding the role of either NK603 or glyphosate in regards to overall mortality or tumor incidence. Given the known high incidence of tumors in the Sprague-Dawley rat, normal variability cannot be excluded as the cause of the higher mortality and incidence observed in the treated groups.

    Ultimately, the results presented (while not incorrect) are inconclusive, and therefore do not reach the threshold of publication for Food and Chemical Toxicology. The peer review process is not perfect, but it does work. The journal is committed to getting the peer-review process right, and at times, expediency might be sacrificed for being as thorough as possible. The time-consuming nature is, at times, required in fairness to both the authors and readers. Likewise, the Letters to the Editor, both pro and con, serve as a post-publication peer-review. The back and forth between the readers and the author has a useful and valuable place in our scientific dialog.

    The Editor-in-Chief again commends the corresponding author for his willingness and openness in participating in this dialog. The retraction is only on the inconclusiveness of this one paper. The journal’s editorial policy will continue to review all manuscripts no matter how controversial they may be. The editorial board will continue to use this case as a reminder to be as diligent as possible in the peer review process.

    Emphasis added.

    Sigh.

  20. Mel
    December 15th, 2013 at 21:04 | #20

    This is from the establishment’s statement (“Elsevier”)

    So Elsevier is the establishment? You’re an anti-science troll with a long history of this type of nonsense.

    I’ll give Pharyngula the final word.

    So it was a terrible, sloppy paper with gaping deficiencies that somehow slipped past peer review but made scientists gape in surprise when they finally saw it published, and it’s finally being retracted. But too late: anti-GMO propagandists are now seeing the retraction as a sign that there is a conspiracy to Hide the Truth™, and are using the efforts to apply standards of evidence to the work as proof that Big Science is out to give everyone cancer.

    freethoughtblogs com/pharyngula/2013/11/29/belated-retraction-of-seralinis-bad-anti-gmo-paper/

  21. Megan
    December 15th, 2013 at 21:42 | #21

    Your thoughts, JQ?

  22. Megan
    December 15th, 2013 at 23:50 | #22

    Prof Q,

    I mean specifically the serial misrepresentation of me as, amongst other personal attacks, an “anti-science troll”.

    As I understood it, such an attack would lead to a permanent ban on the person. Have the rules been relaxed?

  23. John Quiggin
    December 16th, 2013 at 02:32 | #23

    Mel, you’ve violated both my direction not to interact with Megan and my ban on personal attacks. I am therefore banning you indefinitely.

    I don’t have time to deal with this now. If you are willing to offer an immediate and unconditional apology for your attack, I am willing to reconsider the matter in the New Year.

  24. Ernestine Gross
    December 16th, 2013 at 04:43 | #24

    It is very strange for a society that preaches ‘freedom’ to argue against other societies preferences for non-GM food.

  25. Donald Oats
    December 16th, 2013 at 06:14 | #25

    As we have discussed before, the Liberal “plan” for NBN to be FTTN and old copper to the home (in the first instance) is going to come unstuck. Forgetting about the financial aspects for now, look at the technical aspects: Ultra-High Definition TV (UHDTV) is here already. The new standards allow for both 4K and 8K UHDTV, with 4K (2160p) having a minimum resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, and 8K (4320p) having a minimum resolution of 7680 x 4320 pixels. These suckers have an extended colour range, and a frame rate of up to 120fps, for use on large billboard-sized screens where motion blur of the subject is more detectable at standard frame rates.

    Anyone want to guess just how much bandwidth is required to stream this data across the internet and into your home? S**tloads is the correct answer. More than enough to bury a copper link in a blizzard of dropped bits. Even at 4K with maximum possible compression, a single movie (like Elysium, mastered in 4K) would probably risk driving copper into the ground.

    How about the roadside boxes—the so-called Nodes in the FTTN part of the equation? What will be their capacity for carrying data from there to the copper? Is the Liberal plan going to accommodate 8K movie downloads/streaming?

    There is no point pretending that people won’t want this new video technology, what with the 22.2 surround sound (I kid you not), and the expanded colour space. Japan and China have plans for rollout of 4K in the near future, meaning the next couple of years. They manufacture the necessary chips for the camera equipment through to the TVs, so the technical capacity can be produced for commercial use, no doubt about it.

    I foresee this Liberal government placing us in the position we were in with the Howard government and Telstra in the early 2000’s, where Telstra’s intransigence meant using dial-up or being gouged on bandwidth costs for ADSL—if you could even get the technology to your home in the first place. Taking minutes to download an image dense webpage, only to find it didn’t have the information you were after…

    With one finger for the Libs, I salute them.

  26. sunshine
    December 16th, 2013 at 07:20 | #26

    @Donald Oats
    Maybe this is the Conservatives way of preventing the eventual streaming of free 3D porn to the bedrooms of our nations teenagers !

  27. Ikonoclast
    December 16th, 2013 at 07:40 | #27

    @Ernestine Gross

    I am very wary of GM food for a number of reasons.

    Insertion of gene A to make say protein B might seem straightforward. However, to my mind there is no guarantee that an insertion accompanied by offsets or displacements in a complex gene sequence will not have other unforeseen consequences (in how other genes are expressed or not expressed.)

    The situation (insertion of code) is not dissimilar in some ways to inserting new code in a complex computer program. Anyone who has worked in computer systems development knows that regression testing is a significant component of development. After new code is inserted, not only must the new code be tested, but the whole system must be tested (as far as possible) to ensure that the new code has not buggered up something else that used to work. Are GM experimenters and implementers doing enough testing to ensure they have not buggered up something else? I wonder, because the permutations and combinations of risks are huge.

    Also, the self-reinforcing corporate money-making linkages between GM and more pesticides, more fertilisers are very clear. After, engineering crops to take more pesticides, more fertilisers what happens to the intricate web of life downstream? Think of bees and CCD (colony collapse disorder) as one possible example.

  28. Mel
    December 16th, 2013 at 08:46 | #28

    Prof Quiggin, I have a great deal of respect for you and this blog and accordingly I apologise for breaking your injunction not to interact with Megan or make personal attacks. I also apologise to Megan. I accept that her opposition to certain branches of mainstream science is genuine and thus not trolling and it was wrong of me to suggest otherwise.

  29. Megan
    December 16th, 2013 at 09:32 | #29

    @John Quiggin

    This doesn’t sound “unconditional”:

    her opposition to certain branches of mainstream science

  30. Ernestine Gross
    December 16th, 2013 at 10:30 | #30

    Ikonoclast, if you have a choice between a GM-food society and non-GM-food society, which one would you choose?

    (Society refers to a group of people, possibly very large, endowed with a land mass such that ecological separation of areas is possible, and independent scientific research is affordable.)

  31. sunshine
    December 16th, 2013 at 13:55 | #31

    I dont know much about GM, but doubt we need GM tech unless we want to grow the worlds population/economy/farm output at the maximum possible rate . Even then we may not need it . Mega companies sure want it -which raises suspicions in me. From my uninformed mass media point of view ,I tend to trust the scientists who seem to say the risks are small. I think simply maximising growth and hoping for the best has not worked too well and is getting boring.

  32. December 16th, 2013 at 22:37 | #32

    There is not much left of American civic democratic virtue – more a warning than cause for celebration.

    However, the War of Independence, did leave a legacy of local political action. Take the case of Boulder, Colorado, in which in attempt to create a city powered by renewable energy, in particular solar energy.The status quo is a reaction, and if they do not have all the cards in the pack, they claim the aces.

    Local Government in Australia does not have the initiative to take similar action. Could it be that State Governments are determined to keep it that way, since they are invested in the fossil fuel economy, symbolic of top-down control? Nor are political parties locally based. Denial is one response. The loss of political power arising from local empowerment concentrates political minds, almost like nothing else. And yet smart grids, although integrated in broad networks, are going to be significantly local in operation.

    Idee fixes need expression to be considered – the sun is after all a star.

  33. Ikonoclast
    December 16th, 2013 at 23:12 | #33

    @Ernestine Gross

    That’s a tough question. I find myself wanting to weasel out of it a bit by saying this. Maybe a society where GM foods are very clearly labelled so I personally can avoid purchasing and consuming any. However, given that fields of GM crops can contaminate the gene pools of fields of non-GM crops, arguably over great distances, then you may not be offering me a false dichotomy of choice but a genuine and justified dichotomy. In that case, I would choose the non-GM large land mass.

    Some people with a very deterministic and simplified view of applied genetic science argue that GM is no different from selective breeding. In both cases we “manipulate the gene pool”. However, the manipulations and possible flow-on effects are quite different. Natural breeding crosses only organisms that are already closely related. GM breeding splices together genes from up to a dozen or more different sources including bacterial DNA. Bacteria can also be used as vectors to splice in the DNA. This genetic mixing rate is, I think likely, many orders of magnitude greater than would occur naturally in macro-organisms and/or many orders of magnitude greater than successful mutations.

    If the bacteria used as vectors escape into the natural environment, they will then potentially share all new genetic material with all bacteria in the environment. Bacteria share genetic materials across species by horizontal gene transfer.

    All the above is a qualitatively and quantitatively different process from cross-breeding. It is clearly unscientific to claim they are analogous as some GM proponents do.

    I have a simple rubric too. If corporations want something then it must be bad.

  34. December 17th, 2013 at 07:27 | #34

    @Iconoclast

    Natural breeding also gave us HIV and SARS among a huge number of other organisms, many of which started out as harmless to humans. The idea of using this as an argument in favour of GM seems absurd.

    To be clear, I love the technology – and have no problem with the use of GM on any organism, including humans (animal welfare concerns aside). What I do object to is the large scale release of modified organisms into the environment. Your comments about regression testing are spot on. IMO we don’t yet have the knowledge, let alone the tool chain, to support uncontrolled release of this stuff. There is potential for great harm across multiple dimensions.

  35. TerjeP
    December 17th, 2013 at 11:56 | #35

    The Human Rights Commission ought to be scrapped. However reform is always an second choice option. So it’s great to see prominent libertarian Tim Wilson has been appointed as a human rights commissioner. That should put a cat amongst the pigeons. Hopefully he can go some way to shifting the focus towards a classical liberal perspective. Hopefully he is fearless in taking on not just the threat from the left of politics but also his mates on the conservative right.

    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/george-brandis-appoints-ipas-tim-wilson-to-human-rights-commission-20131217-2zi5z.html

  36. Troy Prideaux
    December 17th, 2013 at 12:12 | #36

    Hummm… I assume that would be Liberal Party Member and IPA spokesman Tim Wilson?

  37. Troy Prideaux
    December 17th, 2013 at 12:18 | #37

    Apologies for that dumb question… should have read the link.

  38. TerjeP
    December 17th, 2013 at 12:30 | #38

    He has quit the Liberal Party and the IPA. But yes that’s him.

  39. Julie Thomas
    December 17th, 2013 at 13:35 | #39

    @TerjeP

    oh oh does Tim have a problem with women? The Destroy the Joint people are not happy with some comments he has made.

  40. TerjeP
    December 17th, 2013 at 14:11 | #40

    The sound of their brains popping creates a warm inner glow. :-p

  41. December 17th, 2013 at 14:33 | #41

    Apart from a large amount of seafood, almost nothing we eat has not been intentionally genetically modified over the past 10,000 years or so. In ye olden times this was done by selective breeding and taking advantage of chance mutations. Some simple examples, carrots aren’t supposed to be orange, maize isn’t supposed to be yellow, strawberries are suposed to be tiny, and short legged sheep are supposed to have longer legs.

    Some people think this sort of genetic modification is safe compared to more direct genetic modification, but this isn’t necessarily so. I could take commerical varieties of plants that contain harmless levels of toxins and selectively breed them until they were hazardous to human health. Just how much success I would have would depend on what sort of raw material I had to work with, but it wouldn’t be too difficult a task. However, it wouldn’t be a terrible profitable task as poisonous plants usually don’t taste very good. It’s almost as if human beings have somehow been selected over time to find plant toxins unplatable. As a result, genetically modifying plants through selective breeding to make them more toxic isn’t likely to be a money winner. Only if I selected certain toxins such as nicotine, tetrahydrocanabinol, or opiodes would I have a chance to make some money.

    In a similar way, increasing the amount of toxins in plants through direct genetic modification is also unlikely to be much of a money winner. Of course, since people don’t always think things through, it might well be a good idea for it to be illegal to make plants for human consumption toxic. In fact, I’m inclined to think it already is illegal to poison people, but I’m not a lawyer so I am really out of my depth on this matter.

    Of course even if something is already illegal doesn’t mean precautions shouldn’t be taken against it occurring. Sometimes risks exist but people pretend they either aren’t there or are insignificant. Just look at the Fukushima reactors for an example. But some crazy person splicing genes from deadly nightshade into commercial lettuce so it produces enough scolopimine to make your heart pop isn’t very likely at the moment. You are much more likely to be killed by someone directly applying poison to your food.

    Currently there is no way to be certain what effect a genetic modification will have on the population of genes into which it is introduced. But in the same way we can’t be certain what effects varying environments will have on a population of genes. So if one is wary of direct genetic modification of the “let’s make money by selling a variety of plant that farmers and/or consumers are willing to pay for” type and not a “Ha! I am an instrument of god’s vengence” sort, then one should also be wary of plants that have been genetically modified by indirect methods such as selective breeding, which is basically everything in the supermarket. And you should also be wary of eating any food that was exposed to unusual conditions during its growth such as climate change, water stress, new variaties of fungi, insect pests and so on as this can also affect the expression of genes in unusual ways. And this includes anything in the supermarket and also any food you take from the wild.

    So personally I am quite happy to eat genetically modified food, whether that modification was done through selective breeding or more direct methods. I see an astoundingly small chance of it doing me any harm while it will definitely help people in poor countries by helping to keep food prices down and by producing new varieties that can cope with climate change. There are going to be over nine billion of us before too long and we’re doing an awful good job of trashing the climate, so the least I can do is help them by eating directly genetically modified food to help ensure that directly genetically modified crops will be available for them. I am sure that, all else being equal, developed countries banning or discouraging directly genetically modified food will cause a considerable number of people in poorer countries to die. I can understand some people being wary of directly genetically modified food, but if you don’t like it you should have made sure that all the world’s nations went through the demographic transition in the 1970s. And don’t tell me that you didn’t possess that power. According to a self help book that I recently burned you just didn’t want it badly enough.

  42. December 17th, 2013 at 14:54 | #42

    TerjeP.

    You won’t agree, but seems to me that Classical Liberalism is nonsense. Classical Liberalism does not do social, historical or empirical analysis.

    It is an ideology that ignores the empirical reality of Capitalism. For example, in Marx’s analysis of the various forms of social organization and class, with examples including primitive communism, feudalism and so forth, identifies the various ways in which the surplus value of production is distributed.

    Today, Classical Liberalism mostly ignores the role of Military-Industrial Complex in creating a violent and unequal world order in the footsteps of Classical Imperialism. Borders created nation states on the European model, especially in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Africa are examples of structural violence and inequality. Juan Cole reports since 1976, the US has spent $8T to provide security for the Persian Gulf States, including Bahrain with its human rights record. These examples have been, I suspect, ignored by Classical Liberalism from their inception

    Why don’t Classical Liberals take their inspiration from The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen summarized as “Liberty, Equality and Brotherhood”, perhaps amended to include the other 51% of humanity?

    You seem to accept it expedient for Mr Wilson to give up his free association with the Liberal Party and the IPA. How can that be consistent for an advocate of human and political rights, other than to cover a supposed conflict of interests.

    The interesting aspect is the appointment was made by the learned Senator Brandis, who seemed to me to be blind-sided with respect to human rights. That conclusion is consistent with Marx’s notion of ideology. If George Brandis were to express a profound concern for human beings and human rights would he, or indeed Libertarians, not be outspoken in relation to the treatment of refugees in the off shore prisons of Nauru and Manus Islands?

  43. TerjeP
    December 17th, 2013 at 16:42 | #43

    I don’t know the views of Tim Wilson on the military industrial complex but criticism of the warfare / welfare state is a staple conversation piece in libertarian circles. You should get out more.

  44. TerjeP
    December 17th, 2013 at 16:43 | #44

    p.s. many libertarians are outspoken on the treatment of refugees.

  45. December 17th, 2013 at 19:46 | #45

    TerjeP

    Fair enough: name names in relation to supporting the human rights of refugees.

    What I have observed at Catallaxy, for example, is the frequent resort to verbal violence. The purpose of s.18C of the Racial Discrimination Act is to sanction vilification, a form of public bullying sanctioned by the presumed privilege of an dominant ethnic identity. Public places are public goods and all people should have access without discrimination on the superficial grounds of appearance. This does not impede democratic discussion and dialogue, rather the contrary since it helps to establish the principle of mutual respect, despite differences, and thus engender the socially transcendent principle of unity in diversity.

  46. Donald Oats
    December 17th, 2013 at 19:53 | #46

    Didn’t Tim want smaller public service? 🙂 Okay, that’s cheeky.

    Seriously, it will be fascinating to observe how Tim Wilson enjoys his new role, and the choices he makes. Looking forward to his thoughts on “freedom” and indefinite detention of asylum seekers.

  47. Megan
    December 17th, 2013 at 20:05 | #47

    @wmmbb

    And of course the “bolt” case went against him because he couldn’t make out the defence provided by s.18(c), ie: that the offensive statements were made “reasonably and in good faith”.

    He didn’t lose the case because of an infringement of his right to free speech, he lost it because he was sloppy with the truth and exercised bad faith.

  48. kevin1
    December 17th, 2013 at 21:32 | #48

    @TerjeP

    Wilson is using influence from his associations with the political elite to obtain the position, which sounds like a form of rent-seeking to me.

    If he believes the HRC should be abolished, he is a manipulative hypocrite, accepting the power of HRC Commissioner so he can betray its statutory objectives.

    How does his history in this field add up to sufficient merit for this appointment?

  49. TerjeP
    December 17th, 2013 at 22:47 | #49

    Wmmbb – name names. How about Chris Berg from the IPA who generally laments our obsession with stopping migrants coming here.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-23/berg-on-the-positive-side-thousands-more-may-find-refuge/4837438

  50. Julie Thomas
    December 18th, 2013 at 06:04 | #50

    Terje I see you got one like for your comment on the facebook page.

    I liked the comment that his real position description is ‘human rights decommissioner’.

  51. Savvas Tzionis
    December 18th, 2013 at 08:26 | #51

    A friend of mine who has worked in these type of workplaces has stated the following to me.

    “While they’re all patting themselves on the back now that they’ve got the IPA ?running a “pinko” organization, let’s see what he has to say about the human ?rights of the “evil” asylum seekers? He may surprisingly cause the govt some ?uncomfortable moments in the years ahead??”

    To which I retorted “You must be kidding!”

    He then explained further to me …

    “As a non public servant, you cannot understand this point; often when an ?outsider comes into an organization like the ABC or Human Rights Commission ?etc, over time, they can be consumed by the culture of the place…..they ?cannot resist it……I’ve seen it happen in the railways many a time. Human ?beings act in a very predictable way……….?”

    “Human beings do not like to be isolated and unwanted, they cherish love and acceptance….it takes a ?lot of front to NOT join the club??”

    So maybe he will go the way of Jonathan Shier?

  52. kevin1
    December 18th, 2013 at 09:28 | #52

    @Savvas Tzionis

    Poacher becoming gamekeeper sometimes works, if they are under close scrutiny to demonstrate they are not captured by previous associations eg. Graeme Samuel, businessman and merchant banker running the ACCC. He was seen as a zealot by some of his big business mates, especially when pursuing Visy’s Dick Pratt for price fixing when the latter was on his death bed.

    I’m not suggesting this is relevant to Wilson; he won’t be leaving his ideology at the door.

  53. Hermit
    December 18th, 2013 at 12:08 | #53

    The appointment of the former Member for Indi to the board of the Australian Submarine Corporation shows the government is at least finding jobs for some people in Adelaide, even if they have to commute some way. My most vivid recollection of the new appointee is her holding a sign that said ‘ditch the witch’. Perhaps she had another sign that said ‘later on get me a cushy job ‘.

    The appointee joins chartered accountants, engineers and military brass all of whom demonstrated some administrative competence. I would have thought that Bob Carr and Steve Bracks also had runs on the board evidently not enough for the Abbott government. When these sinecures are given the appointee ought to at least have relevant experience outside the political arena.

  54. Tim Macknay
    December 18th, 2013 at 13:24 | #54

    @Hermit

    The appointee joins chartered accountants, engineers and military brass all of whom demonstrated some administrative competence.

    Perhaps her role is to be a sort of Commissar.

  55. sunshine
    December 18th, 2013 at 13:27 | #55

    Tim Wilsons appointment is a bold and audacious blow struck in the culture wars as part of Abbotts back to (Howard) the future lack of positive agenda .It is IPA policy to abolish the HRC . Wilson and the IPA fancy that they need to restore balance because those who are traditionally used to unquestioned power and privilege (mainly old white blokes or old white bloke wannabes ) now see themselves as an oppressed minority -and they are very angry .In a weird (for Rightists) ‘PC identity politics’ kind of style they seek to engender rage in their base -“dont tread on us!”.

    Apart from that the rightists may have a point that freedom of speech should not be reduced by banning speech that is merely offensive.

  56. Megan
    December 18th, 2013 at 14:49 | #56

    They had a brief piece on ‘PM’ last night about Wilson’s appointment.

    I’m surprised they left his ‘slip’ in the transcript (in bold):

    TIM WILSON: I want Section 18C repealed.

    PETER LLOYD: You’re already at odds with Gillian Triggs. Professor Triggs doesn’t want it repealed, she wants it rewritten.

    TIM WILSON: That is Professor Triggs’ position, and yes there is a difference in our views and this is precisely why there will ultimately be some discussion within the commission about where the commission heads from here, because my appointment is [sending] a very clear message about what’s going to happen, ah, what the general view is on Section 18C amongst some parts of the community.

    He could just be over-reaching but it sounded very much as if the repeal is a done deal and he has been guaranteed of that.

    Interestingly, as I understand it, the jewish community is very much against the repeal (for obvious reasons).

  57. Will
    December 18th, 2013 at 15:00 | #57

    Business as usual for the right-wing loonies. First, cushy jobs for the cronies! Then, appoint someone who hates the current policy of a governmental body to run it. Try and hammer your square ideological peg into the round social hole, then finally fob the whole mess off on the unlucky succeeding government. This has been the repeating RW pattern for the past few decades.

    Funny how the glut of articles declaring Australia to be literally circling the drain because the debt is a whopping 30% of GDP, government won’t stop spending money and the unemployment rate edging upwards vanished completely as soon as Abbott got elected and continued with the so-called “disastrous government policy” of the previous government. It must simply be an oversight on the behalf of the libertynut loony blogosphere. I’m sure they have a lot on their plate, what with defending Western civilization against feminism and spotting Marxists in the shadows and under the bed ready to steal their gold bars. Maybe they will write something up tomorrow.

  58. Hermit
    December 18th, 2013 at 15:36 | #58

    Now the grown ups are in charge surely December retail must show the customary increase. I discussed this with a rural storekeeper who pointed out that it is governments that empty wallets in December. It seems to be a good time to send out bills for council and water rates as well as car rego. I would add price controlled enterprises such as gas and electricity whether government owned or not. Both lots seem to give themselves regular non-trivial price increases.

    This is in contrast to the hapless unregulated sector that bends over backwards to get customers. Electricity prices roughly doubled 2006-2013 but I bet in that time plum puddings barely moved in price. Mr Hockey it’s your price controlled mates who are the grinches if Christmas retail disappoints.

  59. Megan
    December 18th, 2013 at 21:33 | #59

    There was a type of referendum recently in the US in Washington State called ‘Initiative 522’.

    It was an initiative calling for the labelling of foods containing GM products. When it was launched it had public support of about 66% in favour of the ‘Yes’ vote but after a huge effort from the ‘No’ campaign it was defeated by about 51% to 49%. That huge effort included the largest amount of campaign funding ever arraigned against an initiative in that state, or just about anywhere in the US.

    The ‘No’ case was primarily based on the argument that labelling GM food would ‘mislead’ people by suggesting that there was something wrong with GM food. The ‘Yes’ vote’s primary argument was that people have the right to know, and to choose, whether they eat GM food.

    The ‘No’ case was distinctive in that it was run by a lobby group called “GMA” (Grocery Manufacturers Association) consisting of corporations including Monsanto.

    It was also distinctive in that it was in breach of campaign finance laws for not disclosing where its funding was coming from. The Washington Attorney General prosecuted GMA for that breach.

    The case is ongoing apparently, but the secretive ‘No’ campaign raised something like $20 million (of which $550 came from real individuals and the rest was secretly funded by corporations) to defeat the ‘Yes’ campaign’s effort of about $5 million (raised mostly from real individuals).

    Apart from the obvious problem about ‘democracy’ being ‘won’ by the biggest PR, lobbying and advertising spend, the fact that the GM lobby must always resort to lies and cheating to get their way surely tells us something about their bona fides.

  60. Megan
    December 18th, 2013 at 21:57 | #60

    PS- even after being busted, and disclosing some details of their funding, GMA is accused of hiding a further $3.8 million.

    The sad irony is that it seems they could have got away with it if they had just registered their ‘PAC’ (Political Action Committee) properly and beforehand.

    We label salt content in foods, amongst lots of other things, so there is no genuine reason we shouldn’t also label ‘GM’ content. Surely it’s a classic ‘win-win’, the GMers get to do what they do and the people who want to avoid that content get to choose what they eat.

    The fervent pro-GMers really don’t do themselves any favours by being so dishonest and manipulative – and by supporting such conduct.

  61. Megan
    December 21st, 2013 at 00:34 | #61

    It was Joh’s racist & bloody-minded intransigence that gave Australia ‘Native Title’ via the ‘Mabo’ decision.

    A Queensland Premier gave Australia ‘Mabo’.

    I’ve been following the ‘VLAD’ (“bikie”) cases very closely and I’m beginning to wonder whether it might be another Qld Premier who might give Australia a ‘Bill of Rights’.

    The “Yandina Five” have been in jail for a few weeks, they were dobbed in for having a beer together at the Yandina Pub, – not because they have been accused of doing anything that would normally constitute a crime – because they “associated” with each other.

    Unfortunately, the fact that the ALP is about identically neo-con to the LNP (they supported these stupid laws) means that we will have to wait until we have a genuinely different party before we can electorally push for a Bill of Rights.

    The ALP is ideologically opposed to a Bill of Rights – but that position might actually give us the double bonus of getting rid of the ALP and getting a Bill of Rights!

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