99 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. PrQ, I would just like to make one more point on GM before moving on. My point concerns your opinion that in the name of choice all GM food should be labelled as such. I think mandatory labelling is:

    * unnecessary because producers are already free to promote their products as GM free

    * irrational because the scientific consensus is that mutagenesis is inherently more likely to produce unintended consequences than genetic engineering as it it involves the random shuffling of hundreds of thousands of genes (yet scientsists still overwhelming think even mutagenesis is only slightly risky) AND mutagenesis will become more common if the public rejects GM labelled food, and

    * mischievous because of what we know about how people process information. That is to say, psychological research already shows that if you expose folk to true and false statements on a contentious matter, say climate change or GM food, they will soon get mixed up about what is true and what is false. Note for example how BilB got befuddled about the terminator gene. This in part explains why we on the Left see calls for balanced reporting on climate change as a con job. So-called balanced reporting also in part explains why the public is now very confused about climate change.

    You are a smart guy and you must know this. You must also understand how your stance equates to the lukewarmer position of people like Matt Ridley and Judith Curry re climate change.

  2. I made a big comment about this on the other thread but it got eaten. It included links to scientific studies about water contamination by roundup, and the spread of roundup resistant weeds. Unfortunately it’s gone into the aether, probably because of the links. I also pointed out the hypocrisy of using poison-the-well techniques on Bilb and complaining when tehy’re done to you.

    The claim that opponents of GM are anti-science is itself an anti-science claim.

  3. Well alright, I will reply to faustus with this link which plots Roundup resistance pre- and post-GMO.

    Note how the trendline on the graphs ….. stays exactly the same.

    The first Roundup ie. glysophate resistant weed, Lolium rigidum, developed in Australia in the 1990s and had absolutely nothing to do with GM crops, as faustusnotes is undoubtedly aware.

    Australian State Agricultural Departments and tertiary institutions typically encourage farmers to use Integrated Weed Management to prevent herbicide resistance and this advice is just as applicable to GM crops as to others. GM crops nor any other crop by themselves cause herbicide resistance, rather herbicide resistance is the product of herbicide misuse.

    Various GM crops reduce the need for the use of agricultural chemicals, so much so that some recent studies report a net reduction in pesticide use with associated climate change benefits:

    The adoption of the [GM] technology has reduced pesticide spraying by 474 million kg (-8.9%) and, as a result, decreased the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on these crops [as measured by the indicator the Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ)] by 18.1%. The technology has also facilitated a significant reduction in the release of greenhouse gas emissions from this cropping area, which, in 2011, was equivalent to removing 10.22 million cars from the roads.

    www. ncbi.nlm.nih. gov/pubmed/23635915

    Studies like this are commonplace but they never make it onto the front page of the Daily Mail or onto shock horror current affairs programs on the telly.

    Funny that ….

    Finally, Roundup (Glysophate) went off patent 13 year ago. You can buy it cheap and without any sort of licence or training. I have a twenty litre container of it on my back porch and spray it about the place like nobody’s business.

  4. @Mel Mel, one of the problems with glyphosate is that the wetting agent is harmful to various organisms and constant usage can result in a reduction in soil texture. I try to limit my use to once or twice a year and only to problem areas.

  5. A lot of the GM campaign is one of competing market forces, frankenfoods was and still is a great slogan.

  6. A lot of the GM campaign is one of competing market forces, frankenfoods was and still is a great slogan.

    Well spotted, Rog.

    We shouldn’t forget that the organic industry in America alone has triple the revenue of Monsanto worldwide (approx US$30 billion versus approx US$10 billion).

  7. Anyway, enough of GM foods. I think Mann vs the deniers is a much more interesting topic.

  8. @John Quiggin
    I’m wondering if an attempt to settle will occur, rather than face the potentially damaging consequences of the legal discovery process. If so offered, I hope Michael Mann refuses it and continues through to a full court case. Given that Mann initiated this one, I dare say he feels he has nothing to hide from the court, whereas the defendants might be in a rather different position.

    Looking forward to seeing how it progresses.

  9. I’m not sure that the defendants have anything to hide, other than that they just made stuff up. As it is with most climate denialists it is a case of pretending to know things you don’t know.

    The thought of all the gnashing of teeth going on at WUWT is somewhat satisfying.

    If anyone has any doubt about how scary CC may be please view this video at YouTube about the Permian extinction.

  10. Well, yes, ultimately climate change is at least 20 times more important than GM crops.

    I only bang on about the latter more than the former because I have much higher expectations of my side, the Left. And out of sheer embarrassment.

    And yes it would be great to see Mann inflict some pain on screwballs like Steyn.

  11. @Mel I think the position against GM is based on emotions and is in response is due to a whole raft of issues. Monsanto et al haven’t done a very good job of marketing either.

  12. @rog That should read “is in response to a whole raft of issues”

    People want to retain their identity and freedom of choice and the whole corporate agri business threatens to remove that sense of individual uniqueness.

  13. @rog

    If a large amount of the population (I saw a figure of 88% for Germany) is against following a certain path, it raises an interesting question.

    They may be emotional, misguided, stupid, misinformed, propaganda victims or just maliciously against progress for ideological reasons.

    Getting slurred and defamed by dogmatic bullies might not persuade them to change their opinion. It’s possible it may even make them more wary of anything coming from what they perceive to be that direction – simply because it is an unpleasant place.

    Therefore, to convince those people to support something will require solid evidence, patience, transparency, and above all good will. Alternatively it could be imposed upon them in a dictatorial fashion ‘for their own good’.

    Although never afraid of a scrap if someone really wants one, I’ve always preferred to follow the saying:

    “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

  14. Umm, Megan, you’ve linked to the most vile and immoral claims I’ve ever seen anyone make about genetically engineered crops, including the filthy and oft-debunked claim that Indian farmers are killing themselves because of GM.

    If you argued like a mature adult I wouldn’t be so antsy.

  15. JQ,

    You have often flagged a ban on certain people for certain behaviour.

    In my view the leniency has been disproportionate, and bans have been applied undeservedly to me for transgressions of policy of which I have been the victim rather than the perpetrator.

    On at least three occasions I have been banned when the offense came from elsewhere and for some reason (akin to stalking) I have been the focus of attacks which breach comment policy.

    I particularly like this site because of the generally intelligent and diverse discussion and the fact that it is that rare gem – Queensland based. I don’t really frequent much else on the ‘blogosphere’. I’ve been a regular here for years.

    I’m the last person in the world to be a ‘dobber’ or a ‘sook’, and I’ve put up with this for (literally) a few years now.

    It was less than a month ago that you issued the last injunction in this regard.

    Please consider.

  16. @Megan It was an EU study that reported 75% against GM. My point is that there a host of reasons for this, cultural identity being one of them. For the US the EU is their biggest trade customer and their GM product would compete against local produce. So trade protection is another reason.

  17. If a large amount of the population (I saw a figure of 88% for Germany) is against following a certain path, it raises an interesting question.

    Just speaking generally (not to or about you or GM Mel ), that phenomena raises interesting questions for democracy . Does the government simply enact the will of the people (as I imagine naive Libertarianism would say?) or does it seek to do what is true or good as well? Remembering that over time the Govt plays a big role in shaping public opinion whether it likes (or admits to) it or not. Even by not acting the Govt is shaping opinion. Anyone can easily find examples of majority opinion from around the world on various issues which they would consider obviously and provably wrong. “We wont always be enacting the will of the people” would not be a very popular thing for a Govt to say .

  18. Several debates are complex because the science is complex and also because of other issues. I mean for example the debates about;

    (a) Climate science;
    (b) GM foods;
    (c) Vaccination;
    (d) Flouridation.

    How should citizens form their views on such matters? What is the average level of scientific literacy amongst all citizens of voting age in Australia? The Science Literacy survey report on the Australia Academy of Science website barely scratches the surface of this issue.

    Then there are sources of information and debate. The print media are arguably worse than useless. They range from giving equal weight in debates to science and nonsense and going right on to promoting science denialist propaganda. TV does much the same but provides some general knowledge in nature shows, geology shows, astronomy shows etc. Searching the internet will usually result in more crank site hits than hits on reputable science sites.

    The number of important issues is now great and the issues are deep. Scientists specialise in narrow fields, yet the citizen, even the scientifically literate citizen, has to be a generalist and usually a self-educated generalist at that. It is little wonder that people are having trouble forming valid or adequate views on some topics.

    History can be a handy help. If one reads some history of disease outbreaks (smallpox, polio etc.) one can then compare the world without vaccination and the world with vaccination. If you are old enough you might remember parental history not only of the great depression but also of disease outbreaks and student mortality in their school days.

    Other than that, one might sometimes apply heuristics rather than invest heavily in personal research. For example, in relation to GM, heuristics will revolve around questions like. Have problems sometimes emerged long term in other areas of science? Yes, antibiotic resistance, drug safety, inadequate research, faked research results and so on. Can I trust government deregulation and industry self-regulation? The record shows the answer is no so why should I trust the US GM approach which leaves most research, even safety research, to the corporations? Should I trust corporations to care about citizen safety long term compared to short term profits? No, corporations have a dreadful track record telling lies about tobacco, CO2 etc. etc.

    Short of the ability to deeply research every issue, citizens need to make heuristics-guided assessments on at least some issues. Given what has happened under de-regulation not just of finance but of almost all areas of modern life as affected by corporations, is it any wonder that citizens feel a high level of mistrust and want to hasten slowly in some arenas like GM foods?

    As a final point, forming a view on GM foods (safe or not?) is far more difficult than forming a view on LTG (Limits to Growth). In a very real sense, LTG science or modelling is very basic, clearly based on physical quantification of materials and energy and on fundamental laws of physics like the laws of thermodynamics. Genetics and gene expression, emergenisis, epistasis and so on are enormously complicated as are human diversity and human reactions to proteins, allergens, toxins etc. in foods. Then there is the issue of unforeseen consequences to the entire biome or set of biomes of planet earth.

  19. You are a great man, John Quiggin, and an ornament to Australia as a public intellectual. However, on the GM issue, it was disappointing to see you dismiss the scientific case against GM technology in such cavalier terms. That case is indeed substantial, and has been for many years. A good summary of it can be found at the Union of Concerned Scientists site, http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/genetic-engineering/. The science is clearly still evolving, but the risks are becoming clearer; and they are risks whose effects, if realised, could not be easily reversed. At present the case for the continuing application of the precautionary principle to this technology seems to me to be very strong.

  20. This being a sandpit where the idee fixe is permitted (I presume…)

    Is there a notable rise in world instability recently? I am thinking of Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Ukraine and Argentina specifically though one could no doubt add in several more African nations. Of course, local and regional instabilities have been a feature of recent decades too: Lebanon, Balkans, Congo, Somalia etc.

    I wonder if something new is happening. With the arrival of peak oil, some of these trouble spots specifically Egypt, Syria, Ukraine and Argentine have energy problems. Trouble seems to commence shortly after such countries become net energy importers, especially of oil. This appears to be because they have little else to export (in some cases like Egypt and Syria) to earn foreign currency. In Ukraine and Argentina the issues are more complicated but still relate at least partially to energy in terms of (in)stability of domestic supply and the need for energy imports.

    Of course, Japan is a net energy importer and a hugh oil importer and has been so at least since WW2. In a global situation of adequate energy supplies and the ability to trade manufactured goods for oil and food imports, the Japanese model worked. So the mere transition to or permanent position of being an energy importer might be a necessary but not sufficient condition for instability or economic trouble. The question would be whether the country has other exports to offer and how self-sufficient or not it is in other key requirements like food.

    However, the world is entering a different phase, where China in particular is out-competing all other nations in the business of selling manfuctures and importing oil and this is occurring at about the time of peak oil. Even in 2010, value-addedmanufacturing in China was $1.92 trillion; for the U.S., the total was $1.86 trillion. More oil for China now mean less oil for other countries because of peak oil.

    Countries which are vulnerable to world energy supply shocks (net energy importers and especially net oil importers) are now living in a world of constrained energy supply and oil supply. The remaining oil as it goes to market is getting more expensive. These countries are now more likely to experience recession, unrest or even civil war especially when they have recently moved from being oil exporters to oil importers and when they also have other key import requirements eg. lack of self-sufficiency in food. This was and is clearly the position of Egypt and Syria.

    Australia needs to look to its situation. We are more vulnerable than people think. From 2000 to 2014 Australia has moved from a position of oil self-suffiency (in the lighter fractions like petrol) to a position of significant reliance on oil imports. With the decline of the Bass Strait fields we can only supply about half of our oil needs from domestic production. In 2011, Australia’s oil production stood at 484,000 barrels per day (bpd) but Australia consumed over 1,000,000 barrels per day. Australia’s oil production has dropped by 41% from the peak of 819,000 bpd in 2000.

    While we make other exports (coal, food, gas) we can afford this import bill. We also are self-sufficient in food (clearly since we are net exporters of food). Our $30.5 billion in food exports was nearly three times the $11.3 billion food import bill in 2012. (I think that was the year of those statitistics.) However, we are clearly still suspectible to an oil supply shock despite also being next exporters of energy via coal and gas. The simple reason is that an oil shortage (and thus a petrol and diesel shortage) cannot be quickly or easily averted by utilising coal or gas. Most of our transport fleet does not run on coal and gas.

    So whilst Australia is a long way from the Egypt, Syria, Ukraine and Argentina models we are still suspectible now to a global oil supply or price shock be it a sharp episode or the grinding decline after peak oil. Either of these scenarios could easily plunge Australia into a severe recession. I won’t argue the “D” word yet. Australia needs to act now to reduce its dependence on oil. Strategies should include;

    1. Convert more of our transport fleet to run on gas.
    2. Convert more mass transit to run on electricity.
    3. Build more mass transit systems; trains, buses, trams, light rail, trolley buses etc.
    4. Encourage more fuel efficiency and fuel savings.

    Along with these measures we should reduce gas exports and possibly domestic gas prices consistent with using more gas fuelled transport.

  21. thank you Geoff Wells, its hard to fault a union of concerned scientists as anti-science. i have deep reservations about gm food and i don’t like being labelled anti-science because of it. -a.v.

  22. Just back from our local citizenship ceremony .Bill Shorten is there -the 2nd time in 3 days I have bumped into him here in West Melb .He gave a good speech -a huge contrast to Abbotts Davos effort .I cried when the singer sang the ‘We Are Australian” song .The official anthem is a bit of a dud. I felt proud to be Aust as opposed to the usual feelings of embarrassment and shame. Also the 1st line of the pledge is suspect , it says ‘… under God …’ .

    On GM – I think it may be ok as long as we take it slow and the mega-corporations dont monopolise it .

  23. During the previous week, I have had a look at a few properties within my budget. Several of them have been out in the Adelaide Hills, e.g. Stirling, Mount Barker, Aldgate, Urrbrae, etc. I was amazed at how some of these properties have been constructed in such a way as to virtually guarantee (otherwise avoidable) flooding events. The houses/home units are built with the floor at soil level, perhaps a few centimetres above at best; the houses are at the bottom of short, steep driveways, with a drop of two or three metres from the footpath; the houses are dotted along steep straight roads, nearer the bottom than the top. Anyone of those factors of siting could increase the likelihood of storm related flooding. But to have all factors in a new property, that is just criminal. Sure, no one has to buy these places (except to live somewhere rather than nowhere), but how did they even get approved?

    In contrast, most of the old stone houses in the same areas were constructed with significant elevation above their foundations, typically having a metre of elevation—or more—at the lowest end of the house, with steps up to the verandah or front entrance. While that still doesn’t guarantee no flooding, it sure makes it significantly more difficult for it to occur. I guess the modern houses and units would cost too much to build correctly…

  24. @Ikonoclast

    I would not include vaccination as a complex issue. Research into the effects of vaccination was faked. Some years later the fakery was exposed. There is no scientific argument.

    Vaccination is an uncomfortable example of the protest groups being wrong and the institutions being right.

  25. @Donald Oats

    As someone who has written on this blog about flood-proofing and fire-proofing homes, I agree. Of course, flood-proofing and fire-proofing includes preventative measures like building above pre-climate warming 1 in 200 year flood levels ( a bare minimum now I believe) and building with buffer zones between homes and bush.

    Any residential, commercial or industrial building below pre-climate-warming 1 in 200 year flood levels is just plain criminal morally speaking. There is plenty that can be done with urban land below that level; open parks, native riverine gardens, sporting fields, bikeways, safely submersible shelters and park equipment. These would emerge from floodwaters largely unscathed. (Correct land contouring can minimise scouring and wash-outs.)

    There is so much that could be done to do away with flood and fire losses and at the same time provide green spaces and flood and fire buffer zones in our cities, suburbs and satellite acreages. But greed for the fast real estate buck is opening us to losses of life and property later in the cycle. In the long run, a prevention policy is usually much cheaper than a crisis response and recovery policy.

  26. The Mann vs scumbags thing is interesting. It seems that the judge thinks that calling Mann’s hockey stick “fraudulent” without proof is defamatory. Which means that a great many faux skeptics are in trouble. I’m reasonably sure the hockey stick graph is not perfect, but also sure that it is pretty close, and almost certain that there was no fraud in its production.

    I know you can have a class action against one defendant. Is there something that works in reverse, where one plaintiff can initiate a class action against a whole class of defendants?

  27. I don’t see too much wrong with the UCS position, bearing in mind that it refers to the very weak regulatory situation in the US. It’s very close to the actual policy position in Australia and the one I’ve advocated.

    There is nothing in the UCS statement that could justify or even mitigate the wrongness of anti-scientific sabotage attacks like those of Greenpeace Australia, or the scaremongering anti-science propaganda that accompanies them.

  28. Couldn’t agree less.
    The Greens are against, first of all, the secrecy and abuse of process for venal or political purposes (therefore unavoidably in some cases, “anti science”) imperatives provoking serious down stream problems and suffering.
    Theyare sceptical of the science you mention whilst focussing on a single example, their protest against GM foods and the system that produces themm, related to consumer capitalism, as much as an urge to feed the poor. If their response to GM is”unscientific”, it is only because politicians and developers have been so anti science on ecological and other matters (eg privatisations, a good parallel).
    As has been mentioned elsewhere, recent history is littered with exampes of incomplete science employed for profit, the most spectacular example being Fukushima2…THAT, is anti science, not the call to have accountability and scrutiny against a trend of furtive”developer rules”characterised by secrecy and down stream disasters because corporations were too desperate to maker a buck rathe than do science properly before releasing their toxic products upon a consumer fetishist market.

  29. @John Quiggin

    Has anyone on this thread or the GM thread actually supported sabotage? I stated I opposed sabatoge as a disproportionate response and dangerous in its own right. Damaged experiments and trials could release greater dangers. Is it Greenpeace or a splinter group that is actually making the sabotage attacks?

    In using “anti-science” as a pejorative one has to be careful the smear is not being spread too wide. Climate change denialism is anti-science. That is pretty clear. Concerns that we don’t know all we need to know about GM yet and concerns that there probably will be some unforeseen consequences is not being anti-science in itself. Fabricating false claims about GM or referring to highly doubtful “studies” about GM is being anti-science.

    Despite being an vowed empiricist I am still in some ways anti-science or at least anti-scientism. And it is scientism to apply simplistic deterministic views to complex science. As in “we have GM theory and tech all nailed down, we know everything or enough of everything, it’s safe and we won’t make mistakes”. Well we have heard all that before about applied nuclear science and nuclear engineering haven’t we? Then we get Chernobyl, Fukishima and many other concerning events over the years.

    If nuclear power worries you because of the attendant dangers of weaponisation then GM sure as heck should worry you about its attendant dangers of weaponisation. It also seems to me that a lot of GM is fairly frivolous. It’s often not about feeding malnourished people (who could be better helped in other ways) but about getting purple designer tomatoes high in anti-oxidants.

    I would also draw a distinction between pure science and applied science. Pure science to any level is essantially fine. It’s applied science where you have to start being very careful. Climate science is pure science when it’s all said and done. In many ways it merely suggests precautionary changes in other areas of life and economics rather than suggesting a new applied science agenda. Most applied science agendas spun out from climate science (not by climate scientists themselves) are plain loopy and almost certainly highly dangerous.

    GM is applied science and applied science in complex and risky areas indicates a very high need for caution. This is precisely because modern applied science is so powerful and the biosphere and its ecosystems are now known to be relatively fragile compared to the power of modern technology and industry.

    The above is why the test for “anti-science” activities propaganda and the labelling of activities as such is different for climate science and GM. They should not be conflated.

  30. The UCS article reminded me of a GM crop issue where post harvest material left in the field was releasing genetically created insecticide which was then severely negatively affecting waterways.

  31. On another topic completely. Why are painkillers allowed in sport? Surely a painkiller is a performance enhancing drug? And it’s injurious or even dangerous too. Pain is a warning.

    I’ve always being against painkillers in sport. I mean anything stronger than an aspirin or panadol. Certainly painkilling needles should be completely illegal. I remember the days in the Sydney Rugby League when commentators talked glibly about the painkilling shots which seemed to be given to elite players as easily as halftime oranges to schoolboys.

  32. There is a case heading to court in WA on 10th February about GM.

    Steve Marsh is the plaintiff, he was an organic farmer with a GM farming neighbour. He alleges that GM contamination onto his property caused him to lose his organic certification and he is claiming damages – as far as I understand the case.

    At common law we had the rule in Rylands v Fletcher for many years until the High Court merged it into the general law of negligence (Tort) in Burnie Port Authority.

    The principle still applies – if you have/hold/bring etc.. onto your land something and it escapes onto my land and causes damage then you can be held liable for my loss.

    Quite sound and reasonable law. There is a lot of big bio-tech/agribusiness money lined up against Mr Marsh and he is struggling to fund his case but he is getting a fair bit of small donations as I understand it.

    It will be an interesting case to follow. It should be of interest to anyone interested in justice and fair play regardless of views about the science of GM.

    Just throwing in another interesting angle.

  33. On a tangent – we have an establishment media constantly pushing certain memes.

    The highlight is their relentless attack on the rule of law (‘Judges Go Soft On Crime-Outrage!’, ‘Judge Made Law-Shock!’, ‘Courts Let Criminals Into Your Home To Do Whatever They Like-Fury!’, ‘Lawyers’ Picnic’ and so on…) always led in this country by the Murdoch press – and blindly followed by his ABC.

    Similarly, they attack universal health, public transport, public education and environmental protections with about the same vigour and regularity.

    On any issue where the establishment media chooses to weigh in (especially if they have earlier chosen to ignore it), the simple rule of thumb is that whatever line they are putting, the opposite is likely to be closer to the truth.

    One of the last functioning pillars of our democracy is the judicial system (the executive, parliament & media having been reduced to pointlessness), and while it has always had its own flaws, it gets things right more often than wrong.

    When we no longer have a properly independent functioning judiciary, we’ve lost our democracy – see Nauru for a recent example.

  34. @Ikonoclast
    An unexpected outcome of using natural gas a vehicle fuel is that it could reverse the export LNG push. Industrial users of piped gas have been paying under $5 a gigajoule spot prices. Since the Japanese have been paying up to $17 a GJ for LNG the pre-liquefaction price for piped gas could go as high as $12. If excise included liquid diesel goes to $1.75 a litre with 35 MJ thermal value that is 5c per MJ or $50 per GJ, an order of magnitude higher than recent gas prices.

    A switch to NG as a domestic vehicle fuel could mean the multibillion dollar investment in the three LNG ‘trains’ at Gladstone Qld is wasted. No need to dredge Gladstone harbour with silt pollution and toxic sludge. Right here at home we will pay a much higher price than for export. A recent white paper pointed to the high cost of converting trucks to compressed or liquefied natural gas (CNG,LNG). The key may be factory built bifuel whereby the vehicle uses widely available but expensive petrol or diesel then cheaper compressed gas when a filling station can be found. Over time the number of bowsers will increase.

    In the US General Motors appears to have adopted this line of thinking. The 2015 Chevrolet Impala will petrol/CNG bifuel. GM’s plug-in hybrid the Chevrolet Volt has had limited sales due to a high sticker price (about $60k here for the Holden badged vehicle) and limited battery only range. The bifuel vehicle should be able to go 800 km on a ‘fill up’. Expect gas powered vehicles to get more prominence from next year.

  35. @Hermit

    Yes, there are so many looming problems and so little in the way of proactive actions from our government. We we will soon be in reactive mode struggling to deal with a series of shocks to the economy and shocks to and from the environment.

  36. No one is recommending or supporting sabotage, as Ikonoclast points out. That kind of smear by association is indeed not legitimate, as John would certainly be aware. The case against GM technology is a scientific one. It is particularly unhelpful to label either for or against GM positions as anti-science. Critical debates are in fact the hallmark of science. The debate is a scientific one and will be settled scientifically. At present it’s not settled, as the UCS summary shows. The development of a scientific consensus takes time. In the meantime, given the potential consequences of getting it wrong, to take the position of the precautionary principle seems highly responsible.

  37. Geoff, I think you are overstating the level of science on the anti-GM side. Pretty much every national academy of science on the planet is supportive of the safety of recombinant DNA techniques in agriculture, and yet apparently there is no consensus?

    As someone with 20 years experience in the field it frustrates me that people are willing to listen to advocacy organizations rather than seeking out the opinion of scientific experts.

    As Mel pointed out, rDNA techniques are considered safer than mutagensis methods that have far less regulations surrounding their commercialization (and hence are cheaper to commercialize) and I have not yet heard a rational defense from the anti-GM movement about this obvious gap in logic. I can’t help but think that if rDNA products were cheaper to commercialize then we would be seeing more products from publicly funded research rather than multinational corporations and then the public would more clearly see the benefit of the tool.

  38. At a national organic conference some time ago attendees interrupted and heckled CSIRO reps who were discussing GM. The organisers had to overrule the protestors saying that it was important for everybody to properly understand the science. Some attendees thought otherwise and wanted to close down the session – fortunately they were over ruled.

  39. A controversy has arisen over the lyrics of the song Royals by Lorde.

    Does the Feministing blogger have a point, or is it the case that if Veronica Bayetti Flores did not exist, Jack Strocchi would have to invent her?

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