Sections

Services

Information

UK United Kingdom

Genetically modified crops shrink farming’s pesticide footprint

Recent news reports claim one in ten Australians believe the world will end on December 21, 2012, based largely on internet gossip about the meaning of ancient stone carvings from the Mayans of Central…

Genetically modified crops have allowed pesticide spraying to be reduced by almost half a million kilograms in the last 15 years. Eric Constantineau

Recent news reports claim one in ten Australians believe the world will end on December 21, 2012, based largely on internet gossip about the meaning of ancient stone carvings from the Mayans of Central America. Such is the disturbing power of frightening myths to influence human belief.

No wonder modern apocalyptic mythology about agriculture, sinister stories about pesticides and assertions that genetic engineering of crops break a biological taboo find a very receptive audience, especially among those who don’t ever go to a modern farm.

In truth, there’s a lot to feel good about in the way modern agriculture is shaping up to the big challenges of the present – reducing carbon emissions, preventing soil erosion and minimising any environmental damage by herbicides and pesticides.

Helping the environment

One of the most significant crop management improvements in recent times has been the increasingly common practice of sowing seeds by direct drilling them into the stubble of the previous season’s crop. This approach forgoes a massive amount of soil tillage with the plough. Such minimum-tillage or no-tillage farming means that much less diesel oil is used in tractors and carbon levels can buildup in the soil rather than be released to the atmosphere.

It’s been estimated that the carbon emission savings from introduction of genetically engineered crops that encourage no-till farming are equivalent to removing 19.4 bn kilogram of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere worldwide. This is equal to the carbon emissions savings from removing 8.6 million cars from the road for one year.

Minimal tillage farming also has several other benefits, such as better moisture retention in the soil and reduction in soil erosion.

Genetically modified insect protected cotton on the left, next to a closely related conventional cotton variety on the right which is showing the damage from heavy insect feeding pressure. Greg Kauter, Courtesy of Australian Cotton Growers Research Association Inc, Narrabri, NSW.

Modern crop genetic engineering has provided farmers with much better crop variety options for use in no-till farming. One of these is crops that are tolerant of the herbicide glyphosate. This is the most widely used types of GM crop. Glyphosate-tolerant crops include soya beans, canola, cotton and maize. Glyphosate has much lower environmental impact than chemicals such atrazine, which it replaces. Unlike atrazine, which is banned in the European Union, glyphosate is relatively rapidly degraded in the soil and does not easily leach into water run-off to river basins.

Beating insects, saving farmers

Insect pest management has been completely revolutionised by the introduction crops with built-in insect protection added using modern gene technology. These include insect-protected cotton, which constitutes almost all of the Australian cotton crop, and insect protected-maize, which is widely grown around the world.

An important benefit of this development is protection of farmers and their families from accidental poisoning when spraying crops with synthetic chemicals. Another benefit is the elimination of synthetic chemical run-off into river systems, which is the big success in the switch of Australian cotton growers to genetically-manipulated cotton varieties that started fifteen years ago.

In Australia, genetically engineered cotton has reduced synthetic chemical spraying by about 80%. Worldwide it’s been estimated that in the period 1996-2010, biotechnology crops have allowed pesticide spraying to be reduced by 438,000,000 kg. This saving is equivalent to the pesticide active ingredient used in all the arable crops in the European Union for one-and-a-half crop years.

Ongoing scientific work being carried out in both the public sector and in biotechnology companies is generating options for further improvement of the environmental footprint of farming. New methods of insect protection, which can be stacked within one crop to give multiple layers of safeguards against insects, are now available. This reduces the chances of insects evolving resistance to the crop protection system and such methods are being used to achieve sustainable pest management for the long term.

Aphids on a seed pod. nDroae/Flickr

Another new development is being trialed in the field in the United Kingdom this northern summer. Scientists at Rothamsted Research station have developed varieties of wheat that have an inbuilt natural repellent for aphid pests. This is the same natural insect repellent made by hundreds of plant species, including peppermint and maize.

If this system (which is giving encouraging results in the glasshouse) performs well in the field, it will allow better control of aphids and reduce the need to spray many synthetic chemicals that are currently necessary to control an attack of the insect in wheat. Aphids transmit diseases that reduce crop harvests.

We have largely emphasised the environmental and human health benefits provided by crop biotechnology and outlined how the environmental footprint of pesticides is being significantly reduced using modern methods of gene technology.

But pesticides are used because they improve crop yields, and the assurance of more reliable crop yields provided by deployment of modern crop biotechnology is becoming increasingly appreciated by food policy experts because of looming insecurities in global food supplies.

Hopefully, readers will realise that most of the sinister prophesies circulating about crop genetic engineering are as useful as the current myth that Mayan hieroglyphics say the world will end in December.

Join the conversation

164 Comments sorted by

  1. David Tribe

    Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

    Since this article has written, another report has come out documenting benefits of insect protected GM (Bt) cotton in India.

    http://farmersforum.in/policy/study-on-socio-economic-impact-assessment-of-bt-cotton-in-india/

    Part of this report
    Pesticide Use
    It was found that pesticide consumption in the country declined by 23 per cent in the Post-Bt cotton period (2002 to 2009) when compared to the Pre-Bt cotton period (1996 to 2001). Farmers reported that with the introduction of Bt cotton, though Bollworm damage had declined, there was an increased damage of sucking pests not supposed to be controlled by Bt Cotton technology. In the last 2 years the rate of decline in consumption of pesticide has also reduced. Hence, the decline in Cotton yields in recent years, can to some extent, be attributed to increased attacks by sucking pests.

    report
    1. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to David Tribe

      Yes, good point David.

      The only problems I've seen linked to Bt crops is the change over of chemical use. Residues from the alternate pesticides can become prevalent.

      But as with any chemical use, we have withholding periods and application rates for a reason. It would be good to see them followed, especially in the poorer countries that are exporting food (just look at the contamination reports for food from China).

      report
  2. Norm Stone

    Farmer

    This is such a modern style. Attack and ridicule your objectors before you have any. In associating any possible detractors with believers in the Mayan calendar you just make yourselves look silly. Nearly as silly as you look by suggesting that minimum tillage is some sort of exclusive province of GM. As to visiting a "modern farm" you would know that all the benefits you ascribe to GM come from modern practices - GPS steering, row control etc etc. we don't need GM plants to feed the world we need to waste less of what we have now. Also while you are at it do some research into Glyphosate resistance, you may come up with some ugly little facts that spoil your theories.

    report
  3. Richard Widows

    logged in via Twitter

    So because I question GM I am an anti science luddite who believes the world is going to end at the end of 2012, is that right? Ok.

    This may just be the most biased Conversation Article I have ever read. The fact that it references a PG Economics study is almost unfathomable! Who are PG Economics?- http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=308

    I hope the Conversation offers the same opportunity to scientists who are questioning this technology as they have to these two 'scientists'...

    report
    1. Norm Stone

      Farmer

      In reply to Richard Widows

      I'm not really worried about bias, I'm more worried about misinformation passed off as fact. How can you pass off all the carbon savings due to minim tillage as being effected by GM? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own set of facts. This use of the term modern is so misleading. If I disagree I'm not modern, right? Let's have a look at what some other modern practices have wrought. Modern antibiotic resistant superbugs, modern monocultures necessitating the overuse of pesticides. Leaving GM up to private companies has given us some herbicide tolerant crops and little else. Perhaps these agricultural academics could look into some salt tolerance, drought tolerance etc. and as an added thrill try attracting some students into their faculty because, modern or not, we are going to run short of qualified professionals shortly.

      report
    2. Richard Roush

      Professor; Dean, Melbourne School of Land and Environment at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Richard Widows

      Dear all:
      I encourage readers to look carefully at what Tribe and I wrote. We lamented "internet gossip" and "the disturbing power of frightening myths to influence human belief". This is a risk that we all suffer. We didn't accuse anyone of being luddites. On the other hand, we have seen in this discussion the citation of many common internet myths, many of which have been at least challenged if not debunked by other comments.

      For Norm Stone, in no way did we argue that "all carbon savings…

      Read more
    3. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Norm Stone

      It's a pity Norm that you read comments about the significant ADDED contribution made to no-till farming and associated environmental benefits by new GM herbicide tolerant crops such as RR soybeans and RR cotton as something different from what we stated. These are the facts we are publicising.
      .
      Note also our article mention insect-protected crops and a trait in addition to herbicide tolerance that is offered by commercial seed suppliers, and there are a range of Bts on offer.Thats not just one…

      Read more
    4. Norm Stone

      Farmer

      In reply to David Tribe

      David, I'm not sure how widespread adoption one particular GM variety contributes to biodiversity, but then I'm just one of those lowly non-academics you so superciliously dismiss. Remember also that the addition of capitals and bold formatting in this type of forum is the equivalent of shouting. It was your inclusion of the term "modern" that I was picking up on because your implication that those who disagree are not "modern" and therefore old fashioned and wrong. It's a pity you didn't have space for the above-mentioned arguments. You seem to have had enough space to talk down to any opponents however, this was obviously considered more important.

      report
    5. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Norm Stone

      I'm sorry and surprised that you read into an adjective "modern" with intended meaning current or state of the art technology, an implication that those who disagree with argument about the technology's ultility are not "modern".
      Gm crops are still modern in the sense of the word I'm using. They are not "heirloom" varieties that's for sure.

      It would be helpful if you were more explicit about what statements and claims of mine are "supercilious" so that the logic behind your disagreement was…

      Read more
    6. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to David Tribe

      The GM bit is only resistance to glyphosate and it is added to non-GM varieties. Yet the "benefits" claimed by those pushing GM is the benefit of the non-GM vareity. The high oleic, low linolenic canola was a classic example.

      report
    7. Richard Widows

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Richard Roush

      Richard, I had not seen your response to my comment amid the flood of debate on this page. I will make a few comments of my own:

      1. I disagree with your explanation to Norm about minimum tillage and its relationship to GM. The title of this article is GM Crops shrink farmings pesticide footprint. Your reference to minimum tillage would give most people reading this article the impression that this was largely a result of GM. That is misleading.

      2. Then you follow your reference to minimum…

      Read more
    8. Shirley Birney

      retiree

      In reply to Richard Roush

      Professor Roush I do believe we folk can distinguish between fact and fallacy. After all we’ve had heaps of practice on reading court transcripts of criminal malfeasance and documented violations of the EP Act. After all, would you conduct business with Ivan Milat?

      Seriously have you read anything on what Monsanto, BayerCrop, Syngenta, Dow et al are (have been) involved in? They're hardly your friendly local entrepreneurs investing money in causes they believe in. It’s a pity our researchers…

      Read more
    9. Richard Widows

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Richard Roush

      Richard (and David) you have ignored my questions. Unless your comment about Jeffrey Smith and yogic flying were in fact directed at me? In which case, thank you for proving my point. I have no idea what yogic flying is, and really, I'm not sure what this has to do with his views on GM. That is called character assassination and generally not something that is viewed favourably within scientific circles.

      Anyway, having reread my comment above I apologise to David for being more agressive than…

      Read more
    10. Richard Widows

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Richard Roush

      Richard and David. Is there a reason that you're not prepared to answer my questions?

      report
    11. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Shirley,
      In our article e linked to the following article to illustrate information about glyphose.

      https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B7hhP5QasNtsbEEzaGd2VzdsbGc

      Some comments from it:
      However, numerous studies have reported
      that glyphosate is likely to be immobile in
      the environment because it binds tightly to
      soil (Giesy et al., 2000).

      This statement is supported by quantitative
      risk assessment using several scientific
      analyses. Glyphosate is certainly considered
      safer for human…

      Read more
    12. Richard Widows

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to David Tribe

      Ok, this is the last time i will comment as it is obvious you're not interested a discussion about difficult topics. I will take your silence to mean 2 things-

      1. You plucked that very questionable 8.6 million cars figure from a biotechnology lobby group report that has not been peer reviewed. Isn't it ironic that you will jump up and down about others citing questionable research yet you have no problem in doing it yourselves, and

      2. You agree that GM research is controlled by GM companies. This isn't ironic, it's just plain scary, particularly coming from two scientists. I would love to know how you justify this as being in the interest of Australian farmers, but it seems I'm not going to find out, oh well.

      report
    13. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Richard Widows

      Richard,

      I certainly glad to engage you in relevant topics however challenging they are, but we did give you a link to the PG Economics web site, which gives the list of peer-reviewed publications in which the methods behind the carbon saving from no-till and their findings have been put to the professional test. I assumed you'd be able to see these yourself at the website under the "Publications" tag.

      I'm also sure you can find ample confirmation that RR-soybeans and RR-cotton have expanded…

      Read more
  4. Julie Newman

    National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

    What a ridiculously deceptive article. The majority of GM crops grown globally is Roundup Ready, which is only resistance to glyphosate. This trait occurs in our weeds without us wanting it so is very easy to do by non-GM means. In fact it only took a year for enterprising drug lords to develop non-GM coca after the glyphosate aerial spraying programme was introduced. Roundup Ready crops encourage the use of Paraquat for resistance management (supposedly Mr Tribes expertise) so it is actually encouraging…

    Read more
    1. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Julie Newman

      Hi Julie, I see you are still pushing your barrow of vested interests.

      Aside from the many myths and non-sequiturs in your comment (weed resistance is not the same as glyphosate resistance and you know it!!) you are also accusing everybody in the industry of collusions, especially scientists. This is very insulting to the people who are trying to improve agriculture, whereas you seem hell-bent on keeping us in the stone age.

      First of all, glyphosate resistance is nothing more than a shortlived…

      Read more
    2. Richard Roush

      Professor; Dean, Melbourne School of Land and Environment at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Julie Newman

      Dear Julie:

      It is not all easy to get agronomically useful levels of glyphosate resistance in crops by non-GM means. In fact, the reason that glyphosate resistance is relatively slow to evolve in weeds is that the naturally occurring mechanisms seem to have high fitness costs on the plants.

      I think you have mis-attributed resistance management expertise to my colleague Dr Tribe, whereas it's probably me that you meant.

      I don't know of any case that specifically recommends paraquat for…

      Read more
    3. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Richard Roush

      Farmers don't like Paraquat because it gives them blood noses and hallucinations so if the voluntary resistance programme involves Paraquat, farmers will be reluctant to use it. Glyphosate is a knockdown and Paraquat is the alternative, that is why glyphosate is our most commonly used chemical. To change its use to in-crop use, this will decrease the effectiveness as a knockdown herbicide due to possible resistances and it is ineffective in controlling the previous crop. You either need to use far more toxic paraquat, or you add more chemicals to the tank... That is why GM crops increase chemical use, not decrease it.

      report
    4. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Julie Newman

      So unsafe handling of chemicals is bad? Really? The fact that the handling instructions and MSDS specifically state you are meant to use safety equipment when handling chemicals shows that your example is negligence (or stupidity) rather than an indictment against Paraquat.

      Also Paraquat is over double the price of Glyphosate. Don't know too many farmers that like spending more money on inputs than they have to.

      Your explanation of chemical use increasing is entirely inaccurate and assumes resistance levels dramatically increase over conventional use. Art Diggle has modelled this extensively.

      report
    5. Richard Roush

      Professor; Dean, Melbourne School of Land and Environment at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Julie Newman

      Not much I can add, Tim, thanks.

      All farmers should be wearing protective gear whenever they applied any pesticide, including insecticides for red legged earth mite in WA, and if Julie knows of farmers not using appropriate safety equipment, she ought to be reporting them as a matter of public safety!

      report
    6. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Yes, exactly. Paraquat use increases costs to farmers yet it is recommended as part of the GM resistance management.
      We had a contract crop spraying business for almost 20 years and it is only a matter of undoing the lid to get those symptoms and was the only chemical our operators refused to use. If you read the MSDS document, you will realise just how toxic this chemical is. The Paraquat/Diquat of Sprayseed is going to increase with GM crops as this is what is recommended to use rather than the glyphosate option. As you said, if this is more expensive (it is), less effective (particularly with higher trash of no till), and more toxic (it is), farmers will not want to use it... result = farmers avoiding the resistance management for glyphosate = weed resistance to glyphosate.

      report
    7. Richard Roush

      Professor; Dean, Melbourne School of Land and Environment at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Julie Newman

      Julie, just a reminder that you are supposed to put the safety gear on BEFORE you open the pesticide.

      Again,despite your assertions, although paraquat is recommended as part of a strategy to reduce dependence in glyphosate broadly in grain cropping in Australia, it's for the whole cropping system, not the less than 5% that is GM.

      And how do you keep defending atrazine? Don't you agree that it is banned in the EU? Feminizes tadpoles, found in ground water, etc.?

      Rick

      report
    8. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Richard Roush

      You obviously have no practical application in crop spraying. I did not say they were not following protocols, I said that this chemical is extremely toxic and is problematic to operators... even following safety precautions.

      report
    9. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Richard Roush

      Rick, again you missed the point... in the normal course of spraying and using the appropriate safety gear, farmers have problems with Paraquat/Diquat. Ask anyone that uses it. The key issue is that farmers don't like using it and therefore, will be reluctant to follow resistance management protocols.

      report
    10. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Julie Newman

      No you have Julie.

      Proper safety precautions should nullify any issues with the chemicals. Lack of proper precautions is simply bad practice and requires education on proper filters for tractor cabs, proper fitted masks, gloves, overalls, washdown areas, chemical traps, waste disposal, etc.

      If this is not happening then people are in breach of the licenses they hold for application of chemicals. As Richard said, they should be reported, as they are a danger to themselves and their neighbours.

      Having worked in a lab with actual nasty chemicals, the practices you speak of would have seen people dead.

      report
  5. Daryl Deal

    retired

    Most interesting, citing India as a success case for growing GM cotton, whilst glossing over the true reality in the country with the great "Cotton Glut" as a result of massive over production.

    As one Australian farmer, from the Darling Downs, on the recent bumper crop harvest, said on ABC Landline, in June 2012, we are now earning $400 per bale at the farm gate and the growing costs, all inclusive is around $350 to $380 per round transport bail. As he said, there is not a whole lot of profit…

    Read more
    1. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Daryl Deal

      Farmers don't have to buy GM seed. Most of the farmers I know refer to GM as a tool in the toolbox. It gives them another option with all their other plant varieties, chemicals and practices. If the price for GM is set too high, then it won't be used as it won't turn a profit.

      Also, the point on GM cotton and India could be made for any crop. India's standard of living for the poor is woeful. Forget GM, any seed and fertiliser there is expensive. Also I don't know of any research that links suicide to GM, that just sounds silly.

      report
  6. Geoff Davies

    Retired scientist

    Two points.

    Biological systems adapt, whereas artificial systems (whether chemical or genetic) do not. So fundamentally this strategy cannot work long term, as Monsanto is finding out.

    The better natural farming systems are achieving yields comparable to industrial ag. They have the additional large advantages of requiring few expensive inputs (key for poor countries), they build the soil rather than depleting it, they store water better, they store carbon better.
    See Institute of Science in Society report http://www.i-sis.org.uk/foodFutures.php
    This was 2005, there may be updates.

    Yes and I also object to the comparison with end-of-the-world cults. I'm an experienced Earth scientist.

    It's a standard ploy of alleged scientists who advocate dubious technology to characterise their opposition as fruit loops.

    report
    1. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Geoff Davies

      Another majort scientific report came out this morning confirming yet again, and in more comprehensive detail, that for Chinese cotton growing the major message of our Conversation article is true article . see The Guardian for more details:
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jun/13/gm-crops-environment-study

      GM crops good for environment, study finds
      Plants engineered to repel pests use less pesticides, allowing natural insect predators to thrive and spread to non-GM fields
      guardian.co.uk…

      Read more
    2. Richard Roush

      Professor; Dean, Melbourne School of Land and Environment at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Geoff Davies

      in reply to Geoff Davies,

      Unfortunately, pests and weeds also adapt to non-chemical controls. For example, as mentioned in my Conversation article last year
      (Will superbugs overwhelm insect-resistant GM crops?), corn rootworms have evolved resistance to crop rotation in the US. There are numerous reports of weeds evolving resistance to non-chemical controls by selection for colours that blend in better with the crop (resistance to hand weeding) and more prostrate growth forms that avoid mowing…

      Read more
    3. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Richard Roush

      Good points Richard.

      The issue that may arise with the rotations is the increased pressure on flexibility and the inclusion of a fallow for water (and N of course). Glyphosate could end up being used too often due to weed seed burdens and control in fallow and canola. We came close to losing diuron, which would have really made rotations overly reliant on glyphosate. At least WAHRI and DAFWA are working on this (my wife is involved).

      report
    4. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Geoff Davies

      Yet another article has just come out, at Mother Jones that says the same as we say here in the main post and in the comments, and more about how GMOs crops have been given a bad wrap. Better still, the article is readable and has journalistic fair.
      Link via
      http://gmopundit.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/breaking-news-mother-jones-says.html

      QUOTE "Genetically modified Bt crops get a pretty bad rap. The pest-killing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacteria protein these plants are bioengineered to make…

      Read more
    5. Nicola Moir

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to David Tribe

      Hi David, The Mother Jones article you have linked us to obviously has selected experiments to assert a pro-GM position. This is an opinion based on selected research. This could be refuted by the anti-GM position in terms of the quality of the research that has been cited including the biotech corporate control of GM research and the scientific rigor of the experiments including the time scale variable.

      Considering the polarization of views that Genetic Engineering causes I want to put to you…

      Read more
    6. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      Nicola,
      First of all I'd like to bring the conversation back to the basic ethics of civilised conversation. I have asked to state in simple understandable terms what Pusztai observed with his potatoes in terms of primary data, and what his observations imply. I have supplied links to the data, and I would like to hear your careful statement about what they mean. I have asked you this before your last response, and didn't get a reply, so I repeat my question here.

      You ask me about my ethical foundations…

      Read more
  7. Andrew Jacobs

    Research Fellow

    Surely any technology that contributes to reducing the use of pesticides and fuel and helps to retain soil carbon, not to mention topsoil should be welcomed.

    report
  8. Paul Atkinson

    Social Worker

    If the authors' aim was to alienate anyone who disagrees with them and give their followers an opportunity for a self-satisfied smirk, then they've passed with flying colours. The piece reads like industry propaganda, except that advertising people would tend to avoid the arrogant tone and patronising devices.

    And, by the way, I am all for a scientific contribution to food production - as long as it isn't used for the purposes of amassing private wealth, looks for the simplest and cheapest answers first, prioritises sustainability, takes into account the risks of new technological interventions and acknowledges the significant harm done in the past by some of the scientific 'advances' deployed in agriculture.

    report
  9. Max Rheese

    director

    It is self-evident that GM technology has provided farmers with a choice enabling them to make a commercial decision as to the value of using GM crops. It is equally self-evident increasing numbers are choosing to do so and they will only continue to do so if there is a tangible benefit.

    The environmental benefits of GM crops through reduced pesticide use are large and quantifiable. Any other benefits such as reductions in tilling or carbon dioxide emissions either primarily or partially due to sowing GM are a bonus and welcome incremental improvements in agricultural production, which carries the burden of providing a 40 per cent increase in production by 2050 to feed a growing world.

    Research and trials on new production methods, GM or conventional, that have the potential to deliver benefits should be encouraged. Real world outcomes and the market will ultimately determine whether they flourish or wither.

    report
    1. Norm Stone

      Farmer

      In reply to Max Rheese

      Of course if something is self evident you don't have to provide any evidence or proof. In general choice is only useful where the choosers are able to access all the information that is relevant and make an informed decision based on transparent, scientific assessment. The authors here are more concerned with obfuscation and supercilious, taking down to people than with any non-partisan assessment.

      report
  10. Davoe McNamee

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    A fantastic article and a refreshing scientific take on GM crops. This debate has been too stuck down in emotion and with green peace and co refusing to budge from old positions.
    Stewart Brand recently put it well, we should remember the leaders of GP and FOE for their contribution to world hunger as much as we remember the leaders of Exxonmobil for their denial of climate change.

    report
  11. Stephen Prowse

    Research Advisor

    While agreeing that this a rather strange article, I also find it a little disturbing that we are still debating the merits of genetic modification. In the broadest sense genetic modification (selection) has given us high performance crops, highly productive animals, vaccines and medical products (eg insulin). Genetic improvement is one part of the green revolution that has played a significant part in feeding the world. While there is clearly a difference between genetic modification through the selection of particular desired traits and the transfer of genes coding for proteins that deliver particular traits, the outcome in the end is the same. For example, a glyphosate resistant plant developed by gene transfer is seen to be a GMO whereas a glyphosate plant produced by selection is not. Surely we should be looking at each new product, irrespective of the way in which it is developed, assessing the risks and the benefits before deciding on how it can be used.

    report
  12. Jeremy Tager

    Extispicist

    Some questions. Is there any evidence of increased yield in genetically engineered food crops? (hint:NO) Is there any evidence of increased pesticide use, increased use of more toxic pesticides and increased concentrations of pesticides on herbicide resistant plants? (hint:YES) Is there evidence that glyphosate resistance is rampant - and Australia one of the leading culprits? (hint: YES) Is there evidence that the regulatory system relies on data provided by companies applying for approval and in…

    Read more
    1. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      Jeremy Tager's claim that there is no evidence for yield benefit from genetically engineered crops is is not a topic we addressed directly in our article, but as one of the authors I'm happy to comment on it.

      Jeremy's claim is completely wrong as not only is there evidence, this abundant evidence strongly supports there being a yield benefit from GM corn in practical terms. We have written quite a bit about pest control, and it surprising that Jeremy doesn't understand that pests such as insects…

      Read more
    2. Richard Roush

      Professor; Dean, Melbourne School of Land and Environment at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      Dear Jeremy
      Good to hear from you after all these years.

      Many of your questions are answered with favorable outcomes for GM in the following and many other sources. After all of these years of your anti-GM campaigning, I'm surprised you haven't found them yourself.

      We even provided a photo showing the yield advantages of Bt cotton, which is one of the most important sources of cooking oil in Australia,

      Google papers by Jorge Fernandez-Cornejo, for example, such as his Adoption of Bioengineered Crops at www.ers.usda.gov/publications/aer810/.

      Don't like US sources? How about the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC)'s "Economic Impact of Dominant GM Crops Worldwide: A Review".
      The full JRC report can be downloaded from:
      ftp://ftp.jrc.es/pub/EURdoc/eur22547en.pdf

      Or just google "A decade of EU-funded GMO research"

      What could be more unbiased than the European Commission and the EU?

      report
    3. Jeremy Tager

      Extispicist

      In reply to Richard Roush

      More cherry picking. The Union of Concerned Scientists (Failure to Yield - 2008) reviewed a number of the peer reviewed papers relating to yield arguments and GE and reached 3 conclusions:
      1. That genetically engineered (GE) crops to date do not increase intrinsic yield
      2. They are limited in improving yield (with the exception of Bt varieties)
      3. Other approaches have demonstrated improvements to yield

      There is by now a substantial body of work that conflicts with the prevailing orthodoxies of advocate scientists - such as the authors. This is true in relation to yield, pesticide use, resistance and health. The dismissive nature of the arguments made in this article says much more about the authors than it does about the issue, the debate or the science.

      report
    4. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      That report was widely debunked for not actually reading the methods sections of the papers.

      They didn't bother to look at the fact that the figures they were citing were from a weed free cultivar establishment trial. Hard to see the benefit of a crop bred for greater weed control when it is in a weed free trial.

      In reality and in the actual scientific trials, GM canola has been found to perform very well. It is still only really one tool to aid in weed control in rotations.

      report
  13. John Newton

    Author Journalist

    Apart from anything else - and there are a lot of 'anything elses' - glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, has also been deemed a major health hazard both to the environment, and to animal and human health. It is toxic to human cells, and according to a French research team, it is also carcinogenic. The team has studied the herbicide extensively, and published at least five articles on glysphosate's potential for wide-ranging environmental and human harmi. Their research shows that glyphosate…

    Read more
    1. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to John Newton

      John, your comment is rather ill-informed.

      Trying to link glyphosate to DDT, etc, is a logical fallacy. This is essentially a derailment from the actual issue.

      The next point is your "studies". You have taken lab based testing of chemicals and made the assumption that the same thing happens in the real world. The toxicity is virtually irrelevant, because glyphosate is sprayed on plants in fields, it isn't used to drown cells in a petri dish. Glyphosate is actually broken down fairly quickly…

      Read more
    2. John Newton

      Author Journalist

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Specious Tom, firstly i was not linking glyphosate to DDT et cetera, only to the company - Monsanto that sold all those dangerous chemicals listed .And I'm pretty sure you understood that.

      And safe enough to drink eh?

      drink it.
      Japanese researchers analysing suicides have found that drinking ¾ of a cup (200 millilitres) of commercial glyphosate products is fatal.
      Survivors (those who consumed less than ¾ of a cup) suffered a range of severe health problems. These problems included intestinal…

      Read more
    3. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to John Newton

      John, I can see you don't have much of a background in chemistry, so I'll probably have to gloss over things a bit here.

      First off, you were using the implication of past misdeads and chemicals to tarnish a separate chemical. Rather than discuss the actual argument for or against, you were "begging the question", which is a logical fallacy.

      Secondly, my hyperbole aside, you are obviously not familiar with MSDS sheets and LD50s. The MSDS for glyphosate and Roundup are freely available on the…

      Read more
    4. John Newton

      Author Journalist

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      A mistake. Glyphosate is a herbicide - an increasingly ineffective one as weeds develop resistance to it - calling it a pesticide was a stupid mistake - burt not as stupid as extolling its virtues

      report
    5. Richard Roush

      Professor; Dean, Melbourne School of Land and Environment at University of Melbourne

      In reply to John Newton

      Thanks to Tim Scanlon, whom I don't think I've met, for outlining the relative safety of glyphosate, which is a pesticide, more specifically a herbicide.

      I don't think that anyone claims that Round-up or other herbicides is perfect; it is a matter of "relative to other herbicides". However, the strongest case against glyphosate is that some of its formulations may contain surfactants that have a higher toxicity than the active ingredient and that these "inert ingredients" are toxic to some fish…

      Read more
    6. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Richard Roush

      Richard, you would know my wife Catherine. She works with Abul now, but did her PhD with Steve Powles and WAHRI.

      report
    7. Richard Roush

      Professor; Dean, Melbourne School of Land and Environment at University of Melbourne

      In reply to John Newton

      For Mr Newton and Ms Murrell

      About additional claims on glyphosate, I think I have read the papers to which you refer, but always happy to look further.

      For example, I was the director of the University of California's pest management program from 2003 to 2006, worked closely with the Dept of Pesticide Regulation, and have read the entire record on glyphosate, farm workers, and landscape gardeners. The reporting system notes what pesticides workers were around when they got ill, even if…

      Read more
    8. Jeremy Tager

      Extispicist

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Interesting Tim that you would extol the virtues of in vivo analysis and assessment when our illustrious regulators dismiss that in relation to GM as flawed - relying instead on chemical analyses to make safety determinations

      report
    9. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      You haven't understood my comments I'm afraid.

      I was highlighting the context of the experiments. It is hardly relevant to compare an apple with a spade. So drowing cells in glyphosate in the lab is completely removed from doses cells receive in the real world. When this has been looked at the conclusion has been that glyphosate is "practically non-toxic".

      report
    10. Paul Rogers

      Manager

      In reply to Richard Roush

      Just to clarify this . . . "pesticide" is the collective term for the more specific categories of agricultural pest control chemicals -- including herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, acaricides etc.

      John Newton is correct in calling glyphosate a pesticide
      Tim Scanlon is not correct in excluding the herbicide glyphosate from the general category of "pesticide".

      And although my tendency is to side with the anti-GMO position, I think Richard Roush is like correct in assessing that glyphosate is of comparatively minimal toxicity to humans and the environment.

      report
  14. Julie Newman

    National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

    Firstly, Tim, I don't have a vested interest, you do. Secondly, just because you have a vested interest in attracting corporate investment, should not give you the right to deny fair risk management. There is market resistance to GM, yet non-GM farmers are currently signing guarantees that there is no GM in our produce...this is why the liability rests with non-GM and you know it. Don't claim "she'll be right mate" then expect us to pay for the market loss when it occurs. Why not accept a strict…

    Read more
    1. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Julie Newman

      So owning a seed cleaning company that is threatened by a system that wouldn't hire seed cleaners is not a vested interest now?

      Also, how is my having the best interests of farmers and access to technology a bad thing?

      I'm not going to go into your ill-informed ramble about conspiracy theories of corporate food control and lack of understanding about chemical resistance and weeds. I will address your statements about genetics though, as it is complete misinformation.

      You are not understanding…

      Read more
    2. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Your logic is very skewed... Quite the opposite occurs. GM crops will promote the use of certified seed cleaners as part of the contracts stipulate that farmers need to buy new seed every year.
      Monsanto have a stated aim to own a patent on all seeds and Arthur Anderson consulting assisted them in forming the strategy which was dependent on alliances with public plant breeders.
      If a crop is resistant to chemicals, it has the same benefit no matter how it is formed. The difference with GM is that this is attached to patents and it affects farmers that don't want to grow it because it causes price penalties.

      report
    3. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Julie Newman

      And this illustrates my key point about your comments Julie. You have completely failed to understand the genetics involved in breeding.

      Your understanding of the genetic transfer of traits is flawed and completely dismisses cross trait and favourable vs unfavourable adaptation. Even you would be aware of verified seed and the need to buy in pure strains due to genetic drift in crops. To ignore this point in the context of GM is laughable.

      report
  15. Ewen Peel

    Farmer

    I find it interesting to see how the non users of this technology perceive its use and benefit to modern agriculture.

    As a farmer I have used GM canola, and while it has a place in crop rotations, its current pricing structure currently makes it very marginal to grow and there are market limitations as well. So overall the area planted has declined from the initial launch period several years ago.
    Certainly the GM development to limit insect and pest attack has proven to be a much more viable…

    Read more
  16. Richard Roush

    Professor; Dean, Melbourne School of Land and Environment at University of Melbourne

    Ewen

    I am sure that the developers of GM would have preferred a trait like gluten-free wheat or a food that helped with obesity. The fact is that no one really knew how to do this when GM crops were first started in the late 1980s. It’s important to remember that the main crops to date took at least 10 years to bring to market, and there remains some controversy over what traits really are useful for human health. It’s a big gamble to spend 10-15 years on a trait that may fall out of favor…

    Read more
    1. Ewen Peel

      Farmer

      In reply to Richard Roush

      Richard

      I agree with you, the research lead times and that decisions have to be made
      almost with a crystal ball to try and predict what might be wanted 10 - 15
      years away.
      Like you, I think that some folk out there just cannot come to terms with
      this technology weather it be good or bad. I still believe that if a benefit to the consumer had been promoted more than the chemical solution then we might not have seen the resistance to it that we have today.

      One group that have surprised me with their opposition is the organic sections of the industry as some of GM possibilities could really help them with reduced treatments.
      Maybe a hybrid organic type industry might evolve when these crops become available.

      report
    2. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Richard Roush

      Good point Richard.

      I was in the USA at a conference when Golden Rice was about to be released and there was a lot of talk about other GM varieties of corn and rice to suit other areas and help with third world blindness. The length of time it was taking to breed the trait conventionally, even with radiation bombardment, was decades behind. It wasn't long after that Greenpeace blocked its release. To sit through the science lectures on what they had done to develop it and what the traits actually did, it was really sad to see it mindlessly derided by the ill-informed.

      Intergrain is currently developing a premium GM wheat that will be ready in 6 years, 4 years of development already. From what I heard from the breeders it sounds pretty good and will give heaps of options for markets that weren't open for Aussie wheat.

      report
    3. Richard Roush

      Professor; Dean, Melbourne School of Land and Environment at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Ewen Peel

      Thanks Ewen

      I think that the future of sustainable agriculture will integrate the most useful tactics from conventional agriculture, genetic engineering, and methods developed by organic farmers.

      Just as the first personal computers were clunky, I see the development of Roundup Ready and other herbicide tolerant crops as an early stopgap in weed management, replacing more dangerous and even more resistance prone pesticides with one that is so relatively safe that we allow people to buy it…

      Read more
    4. Ewen Peel

      Farmer

      In reply to Richard Roush

      I agree with you Rick

      It is early days really in the GM development phase, and it will evolve and become more user friendly for everybody, ( both growers and consumers).
      Like all new developments though, they are no sooner released and nature starts to break them down and GM will also suffer from this. Its big advantage though is that hopefully the breeders will be able to release new traits quicker than the conventional breeding methods and it will take longer for nature to catch up. Disease…

      Read more
  17. Fran Murrell

    President of MADGE

    The title of this article claims that GM crops have reduced pesticide use. Evidence for this apprears to be based on a PG Economics report. This group is funded by the chemical/biotech industry. The description of how they came to these numbers is very odd (see p 83). They decide that since national level surveys on herbicide use is limited (except in the US) they say they base use on GM crops on survey data but use advise from extension agents and industry specialists as to what conventional farmers…

    Read more
    1. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Fran Murrell

      Fran, I'm not going to address your dubious claims as the article has already linked to the relevant work on this, which you haven't really addressed.

      I will address the court case: since when was law in any way related to science and reality? The reality is that glyphosate has been studied all over the world for decades and is very well understood. It really is pathetic to demonise such a safe chemical while we import food from countries that use chemicals that are deemed unsafe everywhere. These…

      Read more
    2. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Fran Murrell

      To Fran

      You question PG Economics as a source for evidence about pesticide and herbicide use decreases , but several of their reports are published in the peeer-reviwed literature.

      But we dont just rely on them for the evidence in our article. The problem for as there is so much evidence and our article is intentionally brief and the references just a representative set of examples.

      But we gave this which you seem to have overlooked (see about page 26):
      https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B7hhP5QasNtsYm50UmtLN0lzVjA

      Read more
    3. Fran Murrell

      President of MADGE

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Hi Tim,
      It is interesting that you have decided not to respond to the evidence on which I base my claims but instead dismiss them as dubious. It is also interesting that you imply that courts of law are incapable of making competent decisions. In fact there is increasing evidence that Roundup is not as safe as its makers imply. This report by a group of international scientists and researchers shows that industry knew by the 1980's and regulators by the 1990's that Roundup causes birth defects…

      Read more
    4. Fran Murrell

      President of MADGE

      In reply to David Tribe

      Thank you for your response David. You have quoted studies and say they are peer reviewed. Unfortunately due to the patent restrictions on GM it has been found that commercial interests shape peer reviewed articles on GM www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=13151

      The findings include that: a strong association between author affiliation to the GM industry (Professional Conflict of Interest) and study outcome

      *at least one of the authors was connected to industry in…

      Read more
    5. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Fran Murrell

      Dear Fran,
      Thank for you questions, and the genuinely courteous and helpful way in which you posed them.

      However I think it's a mistake to routinely seek an explanation in conspiracy theories and bias for several reasons. One is that there will be no more debate about this important topic if we exclude evidence because of possible bias.
      .
      Greenpeace are biased by their need to raise money. Alternative groups like organic farming and those promoting "Natural Therapies" such as Dr Mercola are…

      Read more
    6. Fran Murrell

      President of MADGE

      In reply to David Tribe

      Hi David,
      The paper I referred to 'found that the existence of either financial or professional conflict of interest was associated to study outcomes that cast genetically modified products in a favorable light' www.gmwatch.org/latest-listing/1-news-items/13151-commercial-interests-shape-peer-reviewed-articles-on-gm This is not a conspiracy theory but evidence of bias affecting science in this industry. I find it very concerned and it needs to be addressed. Of course we should also understand the…

      Read more
    7. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Fran Murrell

      Fran,
      I would still like to hear your response to this direct question:

      "So I do have questions for you, Fran:
      Why don't you address those scientific concerns about the assay signal that's due to noise and close to being undetectable, found using an improperly validated method, and contradicted by prior findings that Aris and Leblanc ignore?"

      I do not just have concerns about the assay. I judge the Aris and Leblanc findings on Bt to totally meaningless, and to lack the necessary scientific…

      Read more
  18. Julie Newman

    National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

    Tim, in spite of your critical comments, it appears you have little professional background in this debate and are ill informed on a number of issues. It was not Greenpeace that blocked Golden Rice, it was Monsanto that applied for the regulatory process that denied multiple backcrosses of GM.
    Also no market in the world wants GM wheat, yet it will be too difficult and too expensive to market as non-GM. If commercially released, overnight, the market perception could be that Australia is growing…

    Read more
    1. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Julie Newman

      Greenpeace themselves have publicly admitted to deliberately sabotaging the research on Golden Rice in the early stages, back in Europe, and they continue to completely misrepresent to nutritional value of the vitamin A it provides, by a factor of a hundredfold or so.

      I find it amazing that an opposes and delays humanitarian benefits and criminally sabotages legal wheat field trials in Australia has any credibility in this discussion.

      report
    2. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Julie Newman

      Julie, it is you who are ill-informed.

      Monsanto don't own DAFWA at all, not even a part of it. That is just nonsense. Intergrain is a company, separate from DAFWA, that is primarily owned by the GRDC and DAFWA. Monsanto has a 19.5% share in that company as part of a research buy-in. The GM wheat variety being bred is from CSIRO germplasm. Once again, not Monsanto.

      You make these blithe accusations and statements about markets not wanting GM, yet most of the canola, corn, soy and cotton traded on the international market are GM. You are completely misrepresenting tiny sections of the market as being the entirety of the market because you don't like GM. If you don't like it, don't grow it, grow your old technologies and market it to these people who want it. The majority have just created a niche, so you should be thanking science, not demonising it.

      report
    3. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Tim, you know I did not say Monsanto own DAFWA, I said exactly what you confirmed. DAFWA and Monsanto are commercial partners in Intergrain. I said no market in the world wants GM wheat and that can be confirmed by market research... that is why none is grown commercially anywhere in the world. You need to move on from personal attacks and start looking at the issue. GM wheat will cause economic loss to non-GM farmers and farmers should not be liable for that. Do you support a strict liability legislation where the patent owner, not the non-GM farmer, should be liable for economic loss their product causes?
      Nobody really cares about you being precious about having your vested interests exposed, we are more interested in how risks are going to be managed.

      report
    4. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Julie Newman

      You stated: "Monsanto paid $10.5million for a 19.5% share of Intergrain. They now own the main front building of the Department of Agriculture". They can't own DAFWA property.

      Next point is that there is no commercially available GM wheat, so your point about that is moot. Also, how can it cause economic loss when it effectively opens up a niche market for non-GM? Your logic is wanting on this Julie.

      Finally, I don't have a vested interest. I want what is best for agriculture. I am first and foremost a scientist, then my bias is for what farmers need. I am not interested in accusations of spurious links to chemical companies, that is neither accurate nor relevant to me.

      report
    5. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Are you denying that Intergrain occupies the front building of DAFWA? That is pretty easy to prove! I did not say Monsanto own DAFWA.
      You were promoting Intergrains GM wheat, so the economic risk is very real. Non-GM is not a niche market, it is the market. GM is the intruder on the block and there is market penalty associated with it.
      How can you possibly claim your link with Monsanto through DAFWA is not a vested interest? You are looking for commercial partners to further your research and the corporate sector are not interested in non-GM, they want GM so they have more control and more profits from farmers.

      report
    6. Richard Roush

      Professor; Dean, Melbourne School of Land and Environment at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Julie Newman

      Dear Julie:

      As you know, there was a state election in Western Australia, in which Labor made a GM crops ban part of the election, and lost to the Liberals who defended the view that GM should be allowed. That seems to me to have provided a mandate the state ag department to develop GM in the public interest.

      The major farm organisations in WA, with elected officers, have also come out in favor of GM.

      Just how many members does the Network of Concerned Farmers represent? It seems to me that you have been the national spokesperson forever. How are officers elected?

      Thanks

      Rick

      report
    7. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Richard Roush

      I was Vice President of WAFarmers Grains Council for many years and could not believe how the pro-GM policy was pushed from the top down. The key advisor for farm lobby groups was Paula Fitzgerald from Agrifood Awareness (the GM industry) who was paid $100,000/year by GRDC to push a pro-GM policy through farm lobby groups. The research sector fought tooth and nail to try to influence farm lobby groups.
      Actually, the incumbent coalition government was not a coalition at voting as Nationals and Liberals were separate, they only just scaped in by merging.
      We are what we say we are, a Network of Concerned Farmers. Attacking the messenger is a sure indication you are avoiding the debate.

      report
    8. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Julie Newman

      I'm looking for commercial partners?? No I'm not. I work with farmer groups looking at modelling tools to aid in decision making. I work in extension of science, like climate science. I work on crop agronomy. I have worked on sheep nutrition and pasture nutrition. Sorry, but your baseless accusations are wrong.

      Secondly, you directly stated and I quoted you saying that Monsanto owned the front building of DAFWA. This is completely false.

      Lastly, how is GM wheat an economic risk? There is no penalty for not adopting the variety. Just as there is no penalty for not adopting Clearfield varieties. Segregation of grains and testing are all in place to allow greater market access for all. Your argument is completely invalid.

      report
    9. Richard Roush

      Professor; Dean, Melbourne School of Land and Environment at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Julie Newman

      This is a good one Julie.

      Never mind the rest of this thread, in one paragraph you attack Paula Fitzgerald and a few sentences later claim that in "Attacking the messenger is a sure indication you are avoiding the debate."

      My point remains simply that there has been a legitimate public process in your state that has been amply exposed to your views, including within the WA WAFarmers Grains Council, and still endorsed GM crops.

      report
    10. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Richard Roush

      I was not attacking her, I was stating the fact that she was employed to influence policy.

      report
    11. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      "They" is Intergrain and follows the word Intergrain. I have already clarified this, you are just ignoring the fact that DAFWA has commercial ties with Monsanto. DAFWA has Monsanto as a commercial partner in Intergrain.
      Great... you have questioned how GM wheat is an economic risk... at last some proper debate! The reason no GM wheat is grown commercially anywhere in the world is because no market wants it. If GM wheat is grown commercially anywhere in WA, the market perception is that WA grows…

      Read more
    12. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Julie Newman

      What an illogical comment Julie.

      How can anyone buy GM wheat if it isn't even available to be grown yet? Your next points are baseless supposition. GM growers pay for the testing and segregation, you know this.

      report
    13. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      No, if you check with CBH, you will see that costs to non-GM farmers have increased due to segregation and testing. I have just had a CBH director here that confirmed that.
      And my point was clearly that IF GM wheat is commercialised, we risk losing our industry. I clearly pointed out that no GM wheat is grown commercially anywhere in the world a number of times. The reason is due to this economic risk so it is pointless ignoring this fact.

      report
    14. Jeremy Tager

      Extispicist

      In reply to David Tribe

      Greenpeace has never admitted to 'sabotaging' golden rice. They have been - rightly - critical of what was always a foolish bit of corporate spin. There are far cheaper, easier, logistically far simpler ways of ensuring access to vitamin A than engineering rice.

      report
    15. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      Incorrect Jeremy.

      Greenpeace have admitted to campaigning against golden rice.

      Also Vit A doses was the alternative, and it was found to be overly costly and that it didn't reach all of the areas that needed it. Aid workers were constantly struggling for a better way to do things. I've also already mentioned the conventional breeding on this matter. Their methods were way behind the GM versions.

      report
    16. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Julie Newman

      Costs that come when any new variety is introduced. Just look at Durum wheat.

      You are still completely missing the point that there are no GM Wheats. None. Nada. So of course they aren't commercially grown. Trying to imply that it is because of no market for it is completely false. You said the same about GM Canola, yet every grain marketer have managed to find markets for it.

      You are the one ignoring facts and spouting supposition as fact. We don't risk our markets at all. In fact the conversation I had recently would suggest that there is already a market lined up for the GM Wheat variety once it comes out.

      report
    17. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      Jeremy Tager
      GREENPEACE MISREPRESENTATION OF GOLDEN RICE
      *Jeremy please answer this simple direct question

      Why have Greenpeace never corrected their false on misleading claim that 9kg of rice is needed to be eaten each day to be nutritionally effective, when with Golden Rice II, more recent 2009 reports show about 50 g will do children good?

      Shown in this paper :
      * Golden Rice is an effective source of vitamin A*
      Guangwen Tang, Jian Qin, Gregory G Dolnikowski, Robert M Russell, and Michael…

      Read more
    18. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      You are a comedian. You just argued that non-GM growers don't pay additional costs then you support the fact that they do. Durum wheat does not meet market rejection and is not subject to testing regimes.
      I have never said that there is no market for GM canola, I warned that there are price penalties for GM canola, which was denied... surprise, surprise, the price penalties are around what I predicted.
      Our markets are at risk if GM wheat is introduced. If you truly believed farmers will not suffer economic loss, why not put your money where your mouth is and ensure you and other scientists back that guarantee with your own wages and security on your own homes. This could be the basis of an insurance fund for compensation. To expect farmers to carry the risk is unacceptable.

      report
    19. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Julie Newman

      You can't be serious!?

      You haven't understood the point I made about segregations at all. You also did claim there was no market for GM Canola, you argued that it would hurt the industry. The proof is that it hasn't. And the price penalties you speak of are not related to market access, it is due to competition with Canada with a new market. Meanwhile conventional canola is still doing fine. So there is none of this supposed risk you speak of.

      So your comments about GM Wheat are nothing more than a scare campaign. If you keep it up you might make it a self-fulfilling prophecy, which means that you are to blame, not the scientists.

      Also, you do realise that scientists rely on the success of the industry to retain their jobs, right? We already gamble our livelihoods on agriculture every year. Stop being so narrow minded.

      report
    20. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      You can't be serious!! You are blaming me for singlehandedly bringing down the wheat industry for warning about what is in any market research reports... Oh, you really are a classic!
      Give me details of where I said there is no market for GM, as that has never been my debate... If your interpretation of the posts to date are anything to go on, you are having trouble reading English.
      If we had not argued so strongly for segregation, we would not have it. Our debate was logical and backed by strong evidence, hence segregation. However, GM wheat is a completely different story. No market in the world wants it because it needs to be labelled. The evidence is overwhelming and can't be ignored.

      report
    21. Shirley Birney

      retiree

      In reply to Richard Roush

      Professor Roush, successive governments in WA have seen fit to hold four referendums on the comparatively trivial issue of day light saving and none on GM development. The overriding results of DLS referendums rendered a firm "No" from the public which is indicative of governments having no idea what is in the public interest.

      I find it quite bizarre that you believe the Dept of Ag has a mandate to develop GM in the public interest. "Public interest?" How do you know what the public wants…

      Read more
  19. Julie Newman

    National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

    Because of vested interests, scientists have missed the point... consumers don't want it... markets reject it... those that tolerate it face market penalties... and it can not be segregated! It does not matter how excited you get and how much irrelevent propaganda you promote (ie article above), GM crops are a problem that can't be ignored. It is ignorant to ignore the fact that GM wheat is an unacceptable economic risk, and particularly so that farmers are paying via GRDC levies to promote it.
    Using GM techniques in the lab to fast track conventional plant breeding is the benefit of this technology, not in producing GM traits that markets don't want and are too difficult and too expensive to segregate.

    report
    1. Richard Roush

      Professor; Dean, Melbourne School of Land and Environment at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Julie Newman

      Dear Julie:

      If these crops really are being rejected by the marketplace, they will crash and you have nothing to worry about. The inconvenient truth is that they continue to increase in area 15 years after their release. They are growing because farmers find benefits and markets.

      Read the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC)'s "Economic Impact of Dominant GM Crops Worldwide: A Review".
      The full JRC report can be downloaded from:
      ftp://ftp.jrc.es/pub/EURdoc/eur22547en.pdf

      That's the European Commission not me.

      GM crops that are currently registered have passed regulatory approvals because they are no more risky than conventional crops.

      Just google "A decade of EU-funded GMO research"

      Who could be more unbiased than the EU?

      This is not about scientists, but about the right of farmers to make their own economic choices for a technology that is as safe as conventional, and further provides environmental benefits.

      report
    2. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Richard Roush

      Richard, you missed the point. By giving GM wheat a whirl, farmers risk our existing wheat markets. These risks can not be ignored and the logical risk management is to ensure the farmers are not liable for this loss. If the GM patent owner was liable for the economic loss their product causes, they would be far more cautious about releasing GM wheat.
      To say "She'll be right mate" then expect us to pay if our concerns are proven right, is unacceptable. Scientists vested interest in this technology is no excuse to deny fair risk management.

      report
    3. Richard Roush

      Professor; Dean, Melbourne School of Land and Environment at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Julie Newman

      Julie:

      The patent owner is liable. Ask Bayer, who have paid out hundreds of millions in the US for market disruption with their GM crops, none of which had any human health or environmental impacts.

      Farmers in the US (and Australia) have asked to put disease and drought resistant GM back on the agenda.

      I see that you have dodged replying to the EU reports.

      report
    4. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Richard Roush

      No Rick, when it is commercialised the situation changes. This is thoroughly documented by lawyers. When buying seed, the GM farmer signs to exempt Monsanto from any liability associated with their crop (except to the value of the seed). The non-GM farmer is signing guarantees that there is no GM present in our non-GM crops and if you read the CBH documents, you will find we also accept liability if CBH cause any contamination of our produce. While GM wheat will result in no market, GM canola contamination will result in the associated price penalty of around $50/tonne. Result = non-GM farmer suffers economic loss. Our only legal avenue is to sue the GM farmer... which is what the legal battle between organic farmer Steve Marsh and Baxters who grew GM.
      Actually, I had to laugh, you have just admitted the market disruption that you claim is not true according to EU reports.

      report
    5. Richard Roush

      Professor; Dean, Melbourne School of Land and Environment at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Julie Newman

      Dear Julie:

      Let's get that court case underway and find out. Your mob has threatened this for a while; let's see some more action.

      Starlink corn was commercialised. It didn't allow Bayer to shift the burden to farmers. You av http://pubs.acs.org/cen/topstory/7929/7929notw1.html

      see also
      http://www.farmdocdaily.illinois.edu/2011/07/750_million_settlement_in_gm_r.html

      http://news.injuryboard.com/genetically-modified-rice-trial-cost-bayer-2-million.aspx?googleid=275530

      I don't understand your last sentence, but can see that you have misunderstood me.

      We're going around in circles, you've added nothing new, and probably losing readers attention as well as mine.

      report
    6. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Richard Roush

      This is Australia... read the legal contract and you will understand the difference.

      report
    7. Jeremy Tager

      Extispicist

      In reply to Richard Roush

      Patent holders will not be responsible for contamination or harm once a GM crop is commercialised and approved by regulators as safe - except in unusual circumstances. One might be if the patent holder is aware that the patented organism could or was likely to cause harm and commercialised it anyway. In the absence of such reckless disregard, farmers will carry the costs of contamination and clean up. Or it will fall on the public purse because the regulators have failed to impose any 'polluter pays' responsibility on anyone.

      report
  20. Julie Newman

    National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

    Richard, you are well aware that because of the massive economic risk associated with wheat, no GM wheat is grown commercially anywhere in the world. Now, if Intergrain decide to release GM wheat and all of West Australia lose our ability to market our non-GM wheat because of the market perception of contamination, who should be liable for that economic loss? It should be the patent owner, not the non-GM farmer.
    Ignoring the problem does not make it go away and scientists need to get their head around the fact that there are more interests in this debate than their own.

    report
  21. Nicola Moir

    logged in via Twitter

    I would be interested to know what the author thinks of the health implications of GMO food. I understand that this is an under researched area. What is your view on the article below that states?:

    "To our knowledge, this is the first study to highlight the presence of pesticides-associated genetically modified foods in maternal, fetal and nonpregnant women’s blood. 3-MPPA and Cry1Ab toxin are clearly detectable and appear to cross the placenta to the fetus. Given the potential toxicity of these environmental pol- lutants and the fragility of the fetus, more studies are needed, particularly those using the placental transfer approach"

    Source: Aris A, Leblanc S. (2011) 'Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada.' Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada

    report
    1. Richard Roush

      Professor; Dean, Melbourne School of Land and Environment at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      Dear Nicola:

      This is a heavily researched area, and one on which David and I will likely draft another piece for the conversation. All major scientific organisations have found that the GM crops which have been commercialised are as safe as conventional foods.

      With respect to your specific case, I agree with FSANZ from last year:

      http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumerinformation/gmfoods/fsanzresponsetostudy5185.cfm

      Accessed 30 May 2011

      FSANZ response to study linking Cry1Ab protein…

      Read more
    2. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      Dear Nicola,
      You bring up an interesting topic about which I have a lot of information, but the good news is there is no need to worry. The Aris and Leblanc claims you bring up are baseless. I discuss them here:

      MAY 24 2012 GMO Pundit Blog (QUOTED AGAIN BELOW)
      An inconvenient truth being ignored by GM wheat protesters Take the Flour Back
      http://gmopundit.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/inconvenient-truth-being-ignored-by-gm.html

      And here also
      http://gmopundit.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/false-claims-that-gm-protein-bt-is.html

      Read more
    3. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      Richard has already addressed this, but I have seen another paper on GMOs and health. The main problem with Bt is not the Bt, but rather the use of other chemicals on the crops. Essentially the success of the Bt gene has lead to population changes in the insects which then leads to use of different chemicals.

      Essentially what needs to be monitored is proper chemical use. Julie Newman has already highlighted that she knows of farmers who aren't using chemicals correctly, people she should be reporting. Clearly there is a disconnect that needs to be bridged.

      report
    4. Nicola Moir

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Richard Roush

      I worry that there has not been enough research into the health impacts of GM food prior to its commercialization. It is clear from your reply that you feel it is an unclear and an under-researched area too. The article I cited was peer reviewed and based on science. Do you have any peer reviewed articles that proves that GM food has no negative health impacts?

      report
    5. Nicola Moir

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to David Tribe

      Could you give me the exact reference for that paper by Paul so I can look it up in the library? Do you think two opposing peer reviewed articles is enough of a foundation to decide on the health implications of GM food? I think considering the potential health impacts there should be a lot more research available.

      report
    6. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      Nicola
      Rick is on a plane and asked me to respond for him.

      To the contrary of the idea that GMO food safety is not thoroughly assessed, the topic is exhaustive assessed and iclude numerous government funded studies (eg EURO 80 million by the EU) all showing the GM foods and feeds on the market are at least as safe, and most likely safer than non-GMO equivalents

      See these items on my blog:

      http://gmopundit.blogspot.com.au/2011/02/fingerprinting-of-fine-detail-in-plant.html
      Recent review…

      Read more
    7. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      A correction Tim, I did not highlight that farmers aren't using chemical properly. I highlighted that farmers did not like using Sprayseed. Even driving into a paddock after it has been sprayed can cause headaches for a farmer.

      report
    8. Jeremy Tager

      Extispicist

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      Hi Nicola
      There are a number of studies that call into question the health and safety of GM foods. Of course, all of them, including those that are peer reviewed, have been dismissed, debunked, discredited by the biotech advocates (and of course, Monsanto's data remains unquestioned by these same scientists). An interesting study to look at, for its health implications and the politics of this issue is the studies conducted by CSIRO into a GM pea. After at least 3 feeding studies on animals showing…

      Read more
    9. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      Nicola
      I agree totally with you that that just two articles do not answer the big critical questions about GMO food safety, but the question I was addressing was a narrow one about one part of a recent paper which is only tangential to that issue in any case.

      To the contrary of the idea that GMO food safety is not thoroughly assessed, the topic is exhaustive assessed by hundreds of different primary reports and dozens of reviews and includes numerous government funded studies (eg EURO 80 million…

      Read more
    10. Nicola Moir

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to David Tribe

      Thanks for this information. It will take me a while to read. As an impartial scientist I assume you consider all sides of this debate. Have you ever written anything that challenges the research of biotech corporations such as Monsanto?

      report
    11. Richard Roush

      Professor; Dean, Melbourne School of Land and Environment at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      I think David for keeping this Conversation going while I out of contact.

      I very publicly opposed the first registration of Bt corn in the US (which was from Ciba-Geigy, which is now Syngenta) because the resistance management plan was inadequate, and the development on weed management grounds of a roundup resistant golf course grass by Scott's, which used Monsanto's technology. I think I can fairly claim to have had a major role in stopping Bt sorghum in Australia, and slowed Monsanto's initial expansion of Bt cotton in Australia, also both on resistance management needs.

      Peer reviewed articles can often be wrong, as revealed by careful analysis by a wider audience that the initial peers, or by repeated experiments. On the other hand, non-peer reviewed claims have no quality control process.

      GM safety is never claimed on the basis of a single study, but many separate and independent studies, reviewed by hundreds of scientists around the world.

      Rick

      report
    12. Richard Roush

      Professor; Dean, Melbourne School of Land and Environment at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      Jeremy:

      Wrong again. In fact, it was T Higgins of CSIRO who continued to seek further safety studies, even after Arpad Pusztai, famous for claiming that GM potatoes were unsafe, co-authored a paper concluding the peas were fine.

      The system of extensive safety testing did work; the peas never went to market.

      report
    13. Richard Roush

      Professor; Dean, Melbourne School of Land and Environment at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Richard Roush

      Jeremy

      Didn't you used to work for Greenpeace? Can you please answer Tribe's questions on Greenpeace and Golden Rice?

      Thanks
      Rick

      report
    14. Nicola Moir

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Richard Roush

      Hi Richard, I agree with you that it can be difficult to decipher the truth with so much information claiming to be truth on this subject. I saw some previous comments mentioned that one of your sources is PG Economics with a link to this: http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=308 . Is there any truth to that claim?

      report
    15. Nicola Moir

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to David Tribe

      Hi David, Richard has highlighted that he has challenged some of the biotech companies research. Have you ever written any challenges to the biotech company research?

      report
    16. Nicola Moir

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      Richard, I am assuming your silence on this question highlights that there is truth to the claim that you are using Biotech Corporate sponsored research for your evidence. Surely, you must see that funding source means that this cannot be considered impartial science?

      report
    17. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      Dear Nicola,

      In science it is unethical not to consider all sides of the issue, and the various aspects of a problem must all be considered.
      .
      In the GMO debate most of the questionable assumptions and claims come from the activists who are trying to stop new crop technology (for example Greenpeace sabotaging vitamin A fortified rice by stealing samples mailed from the research labs in Switzerland, misrepresenting the vitamin content of the rice by several orders of magnitude, other activist-groups…

      Read more
    18. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      Hi Nicola, I can give you references for around 60 reports on the problems with GM, but Jeffrey Smiths book, Genetic Roulette is worth getting and summarises key points. Basically the common health concerns arising from research with GM food are:

      1st generation:

      • damaged immune systems and increased allergies
      • development of lesions and/or pre-cancerous growths
      • unusually enlarged or damaged organs
      • temporary infertility
      • unexplained death

      2nd generation and/or developing animals:

      • smaller brain, liver and testicles
      • immune system damage and metabolic change
      • organ damage
      • abnormal anxiety and aggression
      • precancerous tumour findings
      • infertility up to 100% permanent male sterility in offspring
      • abnormally high death rates

      report
    19. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Julie Newman

      The regulatory system is little more than a public relations exercise as the OGTR hands responsibility to FSANZ, who hands responsibility to the patent owner, to prove it is unsafe rather than safe. Now why would the patent owner want to do that?
      In the case of Monsanto's Roundup Ready canola, Monsanto fed the meal to rats over a few weeks and found a 17% increase in liver weight. That usually indicates a toxic reaction but it was ignored because meal is used for stock food and FSANZ has no authority over stock food. The oil, which is the part consumers eat, was not tested at all.

      report
    20. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Julie Newman

      Unfortunately, due to the patent system involved, it is extremely difficult to do independent health testing of GM crops. The patent owner wants to control the results.
      The fact that patents deny consumers and farmers the ability to independently assess performance and health issues, was a major finding in the IAASTD (International Assessment for Agricultural Science and Technology for Development) 2 yr research findings for WTO negotiations.
      The key findings were:
      GM performance questionable
      GM introduces additional liabilities for GM and non-GM farmers
      GM patents concentrate ownership, drive up costs, undermine economic sustainability and food security, inhibit seed-saving and restrict access to products needed for independent trials
      This in depth professional scientific analysis is a far cry to the misleading GM promotions and denial of risks we are hearing on this forum.

      report
    21. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Julie Newman

      Julie Newman is recommending poor quality scientific misinformation which does not meet the standards of The Conversation as part of her case.

      I must warn readers against accepting her amazing comment about Jeffrey Smith as having any scientific credibilty.

      The extent of this misinformation is fully analysed by Chassy and Tribe (myself) here.

      http://academicsreview.org/reviewed-content/genetic-roulette/

      "Genetic Roulette is Jeffrey Smith’s second book in which he makes unsubstantiated…

      Read more
    22. Nicola Moir

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Julie Newman

      Thanks Julie! I will read Jeffrey Smith's book. That is a very unnerving list of health implications of GM food. I can see why people are opting for non-GM food.

      report
    23. Nicola Moir

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to David Tribe

      David I just clicked on your Academics Review site and it seems a bit vicious and personal to create a website purely to attack a published author.

      report
    24. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to David Tribe

      Oh David, you are indeed hilarious. You only want people to read what you, and others with a vested interest, think is suitable to read? Welcome to democracy, over dictatorship, where people get to judge the facts for themselves.
      Jeffrey, did not write the reports, he summarised them in simple language. The hard data of reports are available and are of concern. It is also worth reading the hard data of the pro-GM report because, although they claim it proves safety, their criteria is quite bizarre, and more about the possibility of economic loss if fed to stock. For example, breast meat depth in chickens is not about human safety.

      report
    25. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      I guess it would be bad to do such a thing. but the site doesn't do that. In any case, its not the author but the bad analysis, false claim and mis-represention of evidence that's in the book that part of the site has been devoted to. There other topics in the website and more in the pipeline. We recently did a lot of work translating the articles into Spanish and that was an effort.

      In a similar vein, it a bit odd that you comment so little on the scientific evidence and data, and have so frequently asked questions that question both Rick's and my integrity. That's fine, we can answer those questions, but why not discuss the evidence and logic?

      report
    26. Nicola Moir

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to David Tribe

      David, I admire your devotion and I can see you are more than passionate about this issue. However, after being involved this conversation, I feel that your approach is not impartial and you would never accept any scientific evidence against GM. Your debate is one-sided and closed minded. I feel that this is such a potential important issue for people's health and your are working to silence anyone that speaks out against GM. This is not an impartial scientific debate, rather this is mud-slinging. For this reason, I feel you are acting irresponsibly and unethically in your approach.

      report
    27. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      That's and interesting conclusion Nicola,

      Where did I try and silence anyone? All I have done here is point out where there is misinformation and bad science. It's widely acknowledged among professional scientists that's a serious problem in delivering benefits?. I'm happy to accept where I'm wrong, but not happy to accept the public being misinformed about issues such as safety and be led to making detrimental choices.

      Should I just stand by and let bad advice such as Genetic Roulette circulate without comment?

      I think the people whose lives in developing countries are being spoiled by being denied benefits from crops such as Golden Rice and insect protected vegetables deserve much better.

      Science is not impartial when it comes to errors. It's brutally critical because its so easy for non-scientific patterns of though to be wrong. That's how science works, and its nothing to do with personal offense.

      report
    28. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to David Tribe

      Lol... David, the reason scientists with a vested interest are having difficulty "delivering benefits" via propaganda, is because they can be easily disproved. A perfect example, is your ridiculous claim: "I think the people whose lives in developing countries are being spoiled by being denied benefits from crops such as Golden Rice and insect protected vegetables deserve much better."
      Neither golden rice nor insect protected vegetables offer anything that non-GM alternatives can not offer. It…

      Read more
    29. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Julie Newman

      Julie,
      I do wish that you'd take part in a straight-forward and open-minded conversation about the pros and cons of a remedy when the issue is hundreds of thousands of kids dying from infectious disease triggered by malnutrition caused by vitamin A deficiency. It's not a matter to laugh about, as you are doing. Have you looked at the vast regions of Asia and Africa affected by vitamin A deficiency, and the devastating but preventable effects on illness and death?

      I disagree with your judgements…

      Read more
    30. Nicola Moir

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to David Tribe

      David, please prove me wrong and let me know where you have been critical of biotech company research? Like the other author Richard cited, you must have had a few occasions where as a scientist and 'GM Expert' you have been critical of the the corporate pro-GM research.

      report
    31. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to David Tribe

      I'm laughing at you, not the issue. At a WAFarmers Conference, we were told that it only cost the equivelant of one cigarette/year/person to coat grain with the essential minerals needed for survival. This includes multiple vitamins, not just one found in Golden Rice.
      You know Bt crops produce only the Bt chemical so why be so deceiving in claiming that they are reducing "toxic" chemicals. You can either spray Bt on the outside, or get the plant to produce it... if it is not "toxic" as a GM derivitive…

      Read more
    32. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Julie Newman

      "At a WAFarmers Conference, we were told that it only cost the equivelant of one cigarette/year/person to coat grain with the essential minerals needed for survival. This includes multiple vitamins, not just one found in Golden Rice."
      ----** response: Where this is effective at addressing malnutrition, perhaps in cities in the developing world, I'm pleased to see it happen. But out in the villages I suspect the technology for coating the rice produced by poorer farmers is well out of their financial…

      Read more
    33. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      I believe I have addressed this where you asked it elsewhere on these comments Nicola.

      report
    34. Nicola Moir

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to David Tribe

      David it is interesting that you raise the issue if Indian farmers "lives are being spoiled by delays in arrival" of GM crops considering there are so many problems arising for Indian farmers that have been using GM. There is a even a government rejection of GM in India with the Maharashtra state ordering Bayer CropScience to pay compensation to farmers as the cotton hybrids did not deliver the promised yields. Furthermore, a huge amount of suicides are attributed to farmers experience with GM crops. Now you want to push more GM experiments on them.

      Again, you do not have the ability to see the full picture. Only a biased one-sided view.

      report
    35. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      Nicola,
      Im not pushing expriment on Indian farmers. Indian seed breedres are developing better vaieies in about 70 different local seed companies and also in Indian government research facilities. As far suicides, perhaps you should condider what others say (in direct quotes below) if you think I am a biased source. Also ask why do Indian farmers year after year reeurn to planting GM cotton, and why India now consistently exports massive quantities of cotton, which in didn't happen before GM varieties…

      Read more
    36. trevor prowse

      retired farmer

      In reply to Julie Newman

      As a member of the small seeds section of the WAFarmers , I encouraged that section to embrace greater use of all breeding techniques because the private sector had put patents on breeding technology, that inhibited fast track breeding because of the cost of using the patents. This occured a long time before Julie was on the wheat section. There may have been some top down pressure put on the WAFarmers at a later stage. There are advantages and disadvantages with partnerships with plant breeding conglomerants , but when you have to pay millions to obtain a patent to use fast track breeding , the problem is to convince the state govt to come up with the finance. . It is interesting to note that the list of the supporters of the Conversation all have partners with the private sector.

      report
    37. Nicola Moir

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to David Tribe

      Again, you have 'found' facts to maintain your aggressive pro-GM stance. We have already established that you have cited more than questionable sources in the the PG Economics reference in the main article above. I find it frightening that you are a University Lecturer as your approach to knowledge is so biased.

      I found this article in the Hindustan Times very telling:

      "India’s Bt cotton dream is going terribly wrong. For the first time, farmer suicides, including those in 2011-12, have been…

      Read more
    38. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to trevor prowse

      Hello Trevor, you have just hit the nail on the head. Because many of the patented technologies for non-GM plant breeding is owned by Monsanto, they are being effectively forced to cut alliance deals. When I was doing my GM CSIRO course in Canberra, I asked some pertinent questions and found most of the technologies are owned by Monsanto and CSIRO are using them free of charge in exchange for confidential contracts. CSIRO has a specific exemption legislation from FOI for these contracts as they are considered commercial in confidence. My question to the researchers: Are research institutes being held to randsom for using patented technologies? Is the tradeoff to push a path to market for GM under industry self management? Is a GM gene to be added to every variety produced in order to remove choice for non-GM farmers? What is the tradeoff?

      report
    39. Richard Roush

      Professor; Dean, Melbourne School of Land and Environment at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      Dear Nicola:
      Elsewhere in this discussion, David cited a peer reviewed paper on the success of Bt cotton in India.

      In contrast, after accusing David of "finding" facts to defend our points, you've found an article from the Hindustan Times which refers to a memo that we have not seen and officials "either denied or downplayed". We're supposed to accept this as reliable evidence?

      On 5 June 2012, Dr Govind T Gujar, of Division of Entomology, Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi gave a seminar at the University of Melbourne with a much more positive assessment.

      Impressed as I am that your reading includes the Hindustan Times, If we used newspapers as evidence, we might believe from the Australian that climate change isn't happening!

      report
    40. Nicola Moir

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Julie Newman

      Hi Julie, thanks for the recommendation of Jeffrey Smith's book 'Genetic Roulette'. I have managed to get a copy and it is very enlightening. I have a question for David Tribe on a specific criticism he had on this book.

      David, Your main criticism of Arpad Pusztai's research was that 'no scientific conclusion can be made from the work'. You cite Royal Society (1999) for their expert panel review of this work. I have read through the Royal Society paper and it concludes with the recommendation…

      Read more
    41. Richard Widows

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      That's a good question Nicola which probably means you are unlikely to get an answer...

      report
    42. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      What I found interesting about Arpad Pusztai's research was that he was employed by the UK government to prove GM was safe. 6 months in to the 3 year study, he went public about his serious concerns. Instead of being allowed to finish his study, a team moved in to his lab and removed all of his information and his study was cancelled. It was found that 140,000 pounds was paid to Rowett University by Monsanto that week.

      report
    43. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      Arpad Pusztai did not make the GM potatoes.

      The lab that gave them to him warned him that they were not suitable for making the types of conclusion he seeks to make because they have been put through tissue culture, and genetic variation in this tissue culture leads to variation in levels of natural toxin present in potatoes. The chief investigator in that lab condemns the design of Pusztai's experiments and the use to which the GM potatoes were put , but Arpad doesnt take this advice.

      Think…

      Read more
    44. Nicola Moir

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to David Tribe

      Hi David, thank you for your reply. You skipped around my question but unintentionally answered it in the end. As my previous comment stated I have read the Royal Society (1999) paper you reference so I am aware of the criticisms of the Pusztai experiment. However, as I have stated too, this same paper made a clear recommendation. I will re-quote it:

      'The only way to clarify the current situation would be to refine the experiment design of the research done to date and to use this as the basis…

      Read more
    45. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      "This is a clear recommendation to do further studies. Your answer has outlined that this has not happened. In an interesting irony, you have drawn a very unscientific and untested conclusion that the Pusztai experiment is the result of (as you state above) the "well established variation in natural potato toxins... is a very plausible explanation of possible difference between rats, and nothing to do with GM". Here, you see your recommendation is conflict with your reference, the Royal Society (1999…

      Read more
    46. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      Nicola
      ANOTHER LIKELY HYPOTHESIS
      I'll quote from Kuiper et al Lancet critique paper which you are not referring to, and which I drew to your attention to. It is the single most pertinent paper relating to Pusztai, but ant-GM campaigners never discuss what it says, so I'm happy to highlight it yet again to see if it triggers any comment. It contains the most obvous hypothesis that can explain the Pusztai data. I have referred to this hypothesis by my blog post title, which you don't comment on…

      Read more
    47. Nicola Moir

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to David Tribe

      Hi David, Puzstai responded to those criticisms from Kuiper et al in The Lancet in 1999. You should probably read it. http://www.lancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2805%2976708-8/fulltext

      Considering the ambiguous evidence you have supplied it indicates that the potential for significant negative health implications from the consumption of GM food has not been disproved by pro-GM campaigners.

      Can you highlight any independent research of the feeding of GM-altered food to humans or animals compared with its effect to that of a another control group fed non-GM foods?

      report
    48. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Nicola Moir

      Yes I had seen that reply, and have read quite a few articles by Arpad.

      Highlight independent animal feeding studies. By this I take you to mean non-biotech company sponsored research, or government funded research.

      The European studies are here. There are also a fair number of Chinese studies.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120124140103.htm
      http://gmopundit.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/genetically-modified-food-safe-animal.html

      0. Animal Feed Science and Technology
      133 (2007…

      Read more
  22. Luke Weston

    Physicist / electronic engineer

    @Geoff:

    "Biological systems adapt, whereas artificial systems (whether chemical or genetic) do not."

    How is any recombinant plant technology, such as the plant expression of the natural bacterial genes for CP4 glyphosate-resistant EPSPS synthesis, or Bt synthesis, in the plant not a "biological system"?

    Of course it's a biological system, no different to any other living thing, and of course it's still subject to evolutionary adaptation just like any other organism.

    report
  23. Shirley Collins

    logged in via Facebook

    A1073: GM soy tolerant to 2,4-D, glufosinate ammonium, and glyphosate. A triple chemical cocktail we can look forward to eating! On FSANZ's desk for approval, along with requests to APVMA to increase MRLs (Maximum Residue Levels).

    http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/foodstandards/changingthecode/notificationcirculars/current/notificationcircular5540.cfm

    Increased number and variety of pesticides sprayed over the crop. Increased absorption of pesticides by the plants. Alarming trends which are at odds with the claims in the Conversation piece.

    report
    1. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Shirley Collins

      David, if you do a search for my name on your own blogsite, you will find you have slammed me for many things that have since proven true. I warned that there is a price penalty, you denied it and it has since been proven to be around $50/tonne. I warned the additional costs were far higher, you denied it and cost have been proven to be far higher (a reason why so few grow it). I warned that farmers would need to sue farmers, you denied it and we have a legal case pending now. I warned that because…

      Read more
  24. sally wylie

    gardener

    Both David Roush and David Tribe seem to forget that the dopey people out there who question GM crops are their consumers. Instead of bagging us they need to court us. We have asked for these foods to be labelled, we have asked for them to be fully tested. No way is the response from the corporations and supportive governments.
    If you try to pull the wool over our eyes we are going to have even more reasons not to trust.
    And while universities give unqualified support for these crops I smell a rat, Surely as members of an academic institution they should be looking at both sides not disregarding all criticism.
    No reassuring. But maybe I am dopey.

    report