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To change anti-science activists' minds, go beyond science

The ABC recently reported that 400 people in the Philippines trampled vitamin-enriched “golden rice” trial crops because of fears to human health and biodiversity. A Greenpeace representative in Manila…

You can’t combat a point of view based on values with arguments based on science. John Virgolino

The ABC recently reported that 400 people in the Philippines trampled vitamin-enriched “golden rice” trial crops because of fears to human health and biodiversity. A Greenpeace representative in Manila was quoted as saying they will not be apologising.

It’s very easy to see this as the mindless actions of ill-informed ideologues and anti-science luddites. And make no mistake, I am appalled by what they did, just as I was when it happened at a CSIRO lab in Canberra in 2011.

But as my rage subsided, my brain came back online.

This is not about GM food

The pros and cons of GM food are not what’s at issue here. For those interested in pros and cons, see here, here, and here for a variety of perspectives.

What’s at issue here is people, and understanding what’s happening when people disagree. Reading the many outraged responses by people in the scientific community - for example here and here - it seems clear to me that “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate”.

The proponents of GM rice and its benefits clearly have positive intentions, and they are understandably upset. Some of the pieces decrying the acts of the crop vandals explicitly refer to these activists as being “anti-science”.

But to dismiss this, and similar, disagreements as ipso facto reflecting an anti-science mentality is not only simplistic, it’s actively misguided.

For example, in this piece by David Tribe and Richard Roush earlier this week on The Conversation, the authors quote a Greenpeace activist who was part of the group who destroyed an experimental crop at a CSIRO facility in 2011. She apparently said she is:

a huge fan of what the CSIRO does in many areas, and particularly on climate change and … yes … but I believe that not all science is equal.

IRRI Images

While I abhor the action of she and her mob, and in fact loudly condemned it at the time, this quote suggests hers is patently not an anti-science position.

But it is certainly an anti-GM one.

Rejection of some science and the relevant supporting evidence is not, on its own, a rejection of all science.

Practising persuasion

If the goal of people doing, and promoting, worthy science like this is to help people and encourage uptake, accusations of being anti-science will not help.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the activists’ actions. If you want to win over hearts and minds, characterising those hearts and minds as knuckle-dragging, anti-science morons, or quaintly deluded simpletons who just don’t know any better is not a productive tactic.

Protestations from the pro-GM side that opposition to their work is simply not supported by the scientific literature shows an understandable, and fervent, devotion to science. But it can also sound detached, indignant, even righteous.

Righteous indignation, even if unintended, does not persuade well. Expect it to meet a resistance, if not an active opposition, that is proportional to your own passion.

To imagine anything else reveals a lack of familiarity with the complexities and power of human values, fears, and traditions. That these might not seem scientific rational in theory does not render them any less real in practice.

Jan-Willem Reusink

Science meets people – an old chestnut

There is a classic position in the science communication literature which goes, roughly, if you meet resistance to science, throw facts at those who resist. If that doesn’t work, throw more facts at them, and throw them harder.

This approach, though roundly debunked, is unfortunately still a common default.

We know very well that scientific illiteracy rarely causes rejection of science. Frequently it’s the very human urge to maintain and stand up for the values of their group that leads to such rejection.

Rationality goes out the window when values are at play, as a recent study by Dan Kahan and his colleagues demonstrates brilliantly

In this study, when different people were shown exactly the same numeric data in exactly the same format, their appreciation of the data varied depending on their attitudes to the subject matter under consideration. Basically:

respondents performed wildly differently on what was in essence the same basic problem, simply depending upon whether they had been told that it involved guns or whether they had been told that it involved a new skin cream.

Errors of numeracy were dependent on the issue the numbers represented, not the numbers themselves.

We all want the same thing, kind of

kerolic/Flickr

The arguments for using golden rice are strong. Vitamin A deficiencies are acknowledged as being serious and important by pro and anti-GM groups alike. In seeking to address such deficiencies, they actually want the same thing.

Where they differ is how best to address such deficiencies. And protestations about saving children, while easy to depict as self-evidently worthy, can be used by both sides.

I am not against GM, and I do not come from a country where vitamin A deficiency is a concern. I will not be offering the activists advice.

I do, however, work with the sciences. And for scientists I have four suggestions.

  1. Change your language, change your mindset. When people oppose something you see as science-based, it does not necessarily mean they oppose science. To approach the world this way is unlikely to be productive (and is probably also just plain incorrect).

  2. Science practice is not immune from bias and self-interest, nor is scientific research free from cultural influence (consider halal vaccines, for example) .

  3. Some people have very good reasons to be suspicious of scientists and science. In the last week, for example, a researcher from Tufts University was barred from doing research with humans after feeding GM golden rice to Chinese study participants without informing them it had been genetically modified. I’d be peeved.

  4. Explore, understand and accept that science doesn’t know everything. Take your time if this is difficult, but try to accept this broadly, and come to terms with it deeply. There are complexities inherent in human interactions that invoking “science” doesn’t magically nullify. This is not some vague, post-modernist, anti-science position: it’s just true. If it weren’t, then problems such as this golden rice brawl would not occur.

If scientists genuinely want to take the highest possible moral position (and I believe we should), a broad view of humanity is essential. If we want people to change a position, view or practice, scorching them with righteous fire is not the best way.

That’s being as naïve about human nature as your opponents appear to be about science.

Join the conversation

400 Comments sorted by

    1. wilma western

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to John Troughton

      The article assumes that academics who label Greenpeace activists anti-science and follow up with a barrage of scientific information are actually trying to convert types who trample trial crops.

      Actually what is important is to educate the uncommitted public, and without rebutting the unscientific claims behind the crop-trampling it's hard to do that - the ordinary person in the middle may well opt out if they do not understand that the scare tactics of the anti -GM activists are just that - propaganda , however laudable their motivation may seem.

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    1. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Helen Addison-Smith

      Helen Addison-Smith

      I believe this is a good article and stresses the importance of making contact with your opposing number in a discussion by making better explanations of the material they are complaining about but above all not being a contrarian to their position. Your quick analysis claiming that the misery of the people for whom GM foods are being developed to help the most disadvantaged in the world is necessary because of the selfishness of the rich is pure, unadulterated, idealogy…

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    2. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to John Nicol

      John,

      I remember as a child when every shoe store had x-ray machines so children could see what their foot bones looked like in their shoes. Oops.

      When xrays were first tested, it was found that they could cause hair to fall out, so some society ladies had their body hair neatly trimmed and shaped with the wonderful new science. Whee!!!

      Subsequently it was found that the dose sufficient to cause hair loss was also enough to cause sterility and cancer. Oops!

      Various posts here have talked…

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    3. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Robert Molyneux,

      Yes, I agree there have been the occasional problem with the use of scientific developments and as it turned out X-raying people's feet was not such a good idea, although I doubt very much that anyone suffered any ill effects since as I remember it the practice was stopped by regulatory authorities long before anyone except Amelda Marcos would have ever bought enough shoes to have had excessive exposure - no more than taking a flight at 35,000 feet around the worsd which people…

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    4. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Betacarotene-enhanced rice and bananas are not targeted at relatively rich, developed-world consumers who have the luxury of choosing this kind of variety rather than a staple diet dominated by rice or bananas.

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    5. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to John Nicol

      John,

      The hair that people did not / do not want is / was the bikini line - before the age of the Brazilian or of safety razors. Could be a myth of course.

      Before this I had never heard of bananas as subsistence food, but I very much doubt that an area that grows bananas (sub-tropical, as per our growing areas in Queensland) would be able to grow pretty much anything - as you say, with the right technology / tools. The Irish managed to work with potatoes OK. PNG and Pacific Islanders handle taro / sweet potatoes / bread fruit OK.

      Wheat is a problem as it requires industrialisation to work.

      BTW - Supposedly in WW2 the Japanese initially provided brown rice to Australian POWs, but they refused to eat it and demanded white rice. The Japanese obliged, but it is the brown husk of rice that contains essential vitamins - hence POW dietary problems. Apart from starvation and forced labour, of course.

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    6. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Robert Molyneux

      Thank you Robert for your response to my comment.

      I was probably a bit isolated at the time when the possible use of X-rays on the bikini line was perhaps being considered.being considered,

      It is true with our having become accustomed to the very apetising and varied diet to which we have become accustomed in Australia, it is a bit hard to think of anyone living totally on a single staple food, no matter how good that food might be from a nutritional point of view…

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    1. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Laurie, unfortunately the development of useful GMO foods is time consuming and costly but the benefits can be enormous. The only way that we can obtain the benefits from this difficult but rewarding research, is for the companies involved being able eventually to market their product.

      While I agree totally that any unusual fact about any food, or other product for that matter, should be notified to the potential customer, I can understand the reluctance of companies wanting to provide details…

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    2. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      No, this idea of mandatory labelling is wrong.

      Why? Because labelling is just scaring customers with pseudoscience FUD. It's generating fear, implying that there's something bad about the product when there's no scientific basis for that.

      Some people argue that we should "just label it" so consumers can "make an informed choice", etc. But activists like Greenpeace or FOE, or the people like Mercola with millions of dollars in quack profits, don't care about truly "informed choice", just like…

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    3. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Luke Weston

      Luke,

      I agree that labelling must not be pseudoscience.

      The current fuss about nano-particles seems to be strange in that they are simply very small solids and able to move around the body in the bloodstream - versus solutions that contain VERY small particles. If the nano-particles cannot be be dissolved they might clog blood vessels (like fat) but they cannot enter into chemical reactions.

      I think the real issue is that the ingredients of products have been chosen by manufacturers for…

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  1. Mike Brisco

    Scientist at Flinders University of South Australia

    The benefits from vit A-rich rice, require people to put trust - and faith? - in scientists. Strangers.

    First, you have to believe scientists, that vit A deficiency's a problem. Next, you have to take their word, this problem's so important you should eat new foods. Finally, you must accept from them, changing your food will solve it. Not things you can verify with your own eyes - by looking at your family, and at the rice plant.

    We know this. It's how we react, when strangers bring wonder food to us - more green-leafy veg, more pulses, low-fat dairy. Us: still, we eat pizza & burgers.

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to Mike Brisco

      Ironically we go to a supermarket and buy everyday items without looking too much what we are ingesting.

      There are so many flavours, preservatives, sugar, salt, chemicals etc in practically every processed item on the shelves.

      As you say we happily munch on Big Macs, Chicken Nuggets and god knows what else to the point of becoming a nation of fatties.

      And yet we are terrified of GM food.

      Got to laugh.

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    2. Brett Forbes

      Technology Developer

      In reply to Mike Brisco

      Mike, your missing the point completely in my view.

      I have no issues in principle with increasing the amount of vitamin A in a food, but I have little patience with most of your claims as they miss the true issues with GM foods.
      1. The genes are patented by companies who want to make money from them, this is not altruism, but greed
      2. The genes hop from their GM plants onto non-GM plants
      3. This is deliberate so they can come along and charge money and destroy the livelihoods of those who won't go with the program

      GMO is not about science, but about corporations owning all of the food sources.

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    3. James Gates

      Post Doc

      In reply to Brett Forbes

      I think you may have missed the point Brett, at least in the case of Golden Rice there is no profit motive. The inventors donated it in 2000, it's since been developed on a not for profit basis and it will be available for free in developing nations.

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    4. Eric Ireland

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Brett Forbes

      GMOs aren't just used for food, so logically, they are not about corporations owning all the food sources. The fact that activists only seem to kick up a stink about their use as foods, and not other uses, suggests to me that what's really driving activists is the fear that GM food will be bad for human health, which is an unfounded fear.

      People don't seems to mind genetically modified E. coli being used to produce Taq polymerase or other enzymes, for example. Corporations profit from that, too. What's the difference?

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    5. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Eric Ireland

      Eric, I think that people should be entitled to know what they ingest, and to be able to avoid foods containing unwanted substances (GMOs) or prepared in certain ways (free-range farming).

      I don't mind eating meat from animals that over thousands of years have been selected for fat level and taste - but I would prefer that they be free-range. I would prefer not to eat insects or have dolphins mixed up with my tuna, accidentally or deliberately.

      On another line - we in the West are subjected…

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    6. Lisa Hodgson

      Director

      In reply to James Gates

      Hi James, as far as I can see the profit motive remains.

      From The 'Golden Rice' - An Exercise in How Not to Do Science

      "A report in Financial Times states that the creators of ‘golden rice’ have struck ‘a ground-breaking deal’ with corporate giant AstraZeneca to give Third World farmers free access to the grain while allowing it to be commercially exploited in the developed world. The company will oversee the production of stable GM line(s) and patenting, and take the lines through field trials and commercial approval. While farmers in developed countries will have to pay royalties, those in the Third World earning less than US$10 000 will not. But will Third World farmers be allowed to save the seeds for replanting? It did not say." http://www.i-sis.org.uk/rice.php

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    7. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Brett Forbes

      Except with Golden Rice. The introduction of added Vit. A to a current rice variety would take many many years using conventional plant breeding methods. Taking the gene from a high Vit A rice variety and inserting it into a higher yeilding, lower Vit A variety is quick and effective and entirely ethical.
      Genetic Modification, in the sense of transferring genes from one plant to a LIKE plant, presents no danger to anyone.
      I just wish Greenpeace would stop trying to push its illogical notions onto others who think differently. They are bullies and pirates and should be sued into poverty.

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    8. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Lisa Hodgson

      I do not think that Golden Rice is an F1 hybrid, so the seed should be viable. Why do you sneer at an entirely altruistic action? The plant breeder has not the time nor the capacity to carry out field trials and subsequent marketing. He/she must hand the job to someone else and if that 'someone else' is AstraZeneca, so what?

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    9. Rotha Jago

      concerned citizen

      In reply to James Gates

      Look closer, James Gates. At first sight there appears to be no profit motive in the case of Golden Rice. Except that Glyphosate will have to be used, as with all Monsanto GM seeds. Glyphosate will cause illness in the people (and birds) which consume the GM rice because it permeates plants and their seeds. The soil and water will also be affected and later crops will need more nutrients.
      The profit lies in 'fighting' diseases and soil deficiencies caused by Glyphosate.
      The objective is to make markets. Poor healthy people are an opportunity.
      Poor sick people are a market.
      Foreign Aid is a goldmine. Monsanto look to the long term and so do their allies the drug companies.

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    10. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Rotha Jago

      "Poor sick people are a market".

      Sick, yes, poor no. Why would you make your market sick? In poor countries, sick people rapidly become dead people.

      Why do you claim that glyphosphate, "Roundup", a herbicide, must be used with rice growing?

      Rice is grown in paddy fields full of water. Why would you need to use a herbicide?

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    11. Lisa Hodgson

      Director

      In reply to Michael Hay

      I am not so naive to believe that the motives are wholly altruistic. Call that sneering if you like, that's your judgement. Make no mistake there will be handsome profits made.

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    12. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      I am not terrified of GM food but I am terrified of Monsanto.

      If I were a rat though I might be apprehensive about eating the stuff as it seems I could be left with devastating tumors and other health problems should I do so. (At least that is what independent scientific study has established.)

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    13. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Mike Brisco

      Mike, Tell this to the people whose staple diet is bananas and are dying because of vitamin A deficiency in the populations of East Africa. Go on. You tell 'em!

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    14. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      So true Stephen. Sublime in our ignorance. The only food on the shelves to have been properly ttested against safety standards will be? You guessed it folks. GMO foods.

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    15. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Brett Forbes

      Brett Forbes, You don't really have much idea about practical farming do you. Having jumped from a GM plant to a non-GM plant then what?

      The seed we use next year will not be effected as it will be grown as it is now, in areas which are protected from cross pollination to retain the genetics of the best type for the particular conditions required by the farmer. Tjis seed has been developed by a slow, inefficient form of genetic engineering - it is called plant breeding by crossing various species and selecting the most promising results which are sometimes sports, produced by an unusual tranmutation of a cell. Could be very dangerous!

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    16. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Lisa Hodgson

      Lisa Hodgson,

      The same restrictions could well apply to reproduction of seed as has applied for many years in many well developed crops. Specially tasty but firm for packaging strawberries which we all enjoy in season, are in general grown from root stock which is supplied from the plant breeder, not a geneticist providing a GM product, In the contract regarding the original supply of root stock, the farmer may NOT retain or use his own supply and certainly may not distribute it to others…

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    17. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Lisa Hodgson

      Lisa, This sounds to me like a good deal with the richer people of the world helping to support the essential research to allow poorer people to enjoy a more healthy diet.

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    18. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to Brett Forbes

      "1. The genes are patented by companies who want to make money from them, this is not altruism, but greed
      2. The genes hop from their GM plants onto non-GM plants
      3. This is deliberate so they can come along and charge money and destroy the livelihoods of those who won't go with the program"

      See, this is a great example of the problem.

      You are making statements that are ENTIRELY COMPLETELY, UTTERLY FABRICATED FICTICIOUS NONSENSE.

      This is never justifiable, or defensible, or understandable…

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    19. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to Rotha Jago

      "Look closer, James Gates. At first sight there appears to be no profit motive in the case of Golden Rice. Except that Glyphosate will have to be used, as with all Monsanto GM seeds."

      What the hell are you talking about!!?

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    20. David Tribe

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

      In reply to Lisa Hodgson

      " But will Third World farmers be allowed to save the seeds for replanting? " YES.

      That's exactly why Golden Rice is likely to be financially sustainable. Smallholder farmers will be free to replant their seeds year after year with no extra costs.

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    21. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Michael Hay

      Michael, do you really believe in "entirely altruistic action"? Really?

      Why do you bother about people 'sneering'? Get over it, it is what people do.

      Then you offer an excuse for less than ethical behaviour by these 'altruistic' people and the 'So what' comment demonstrate that your moral compass is a big fat failure.

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    22. Suzy Gneist

      Multiple: self-employed, employed, student, mother, volunteer, Free-flyer

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Rice does not require paddy fields full of water to grow, it is just one traditional method used in some areas, yet flooding rice is not essential to its success.

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    23. wilma western

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Rotha Jago

      Dear oh dear - here's a great example of anti-scientific propaganda.Glyphosate is used very widely in the production of food and fodder crops, GM and non-GM. There is no evidence of the harms Rotha asserts . There is no evidence that food plants grown after weeds knocked down by glyphosate sprayed before the crops are sown contain any harmful residues.

      Nor is there any necessary assumption that glyphosate would be used in the prodection of "golden rice".

      Glyphosate is produced by many companies other than Monsanto as it's out of patent now.

      As I understand it golden rice was developed by a public scientific institute not Mopnsanto

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    24. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to wilma western

      Wilma Western

      What you are saying is correct Wilma. Most of the glyphosate available to agriculture now comes from China which apparently holds most of the remaining minerals used in its production, which is why costs are rapidly increasing and alternative herbicides are coming into higher demand . Unfortunately most newer alternatives are not as user friendly as Roundup which breaks down in less than 24 hours in air, having done its job on th eroot system of the weeds to which it is applied…

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    25. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to John Nicol

      John, my understanding of Roundup is that it breaks down in contact with soil - not air. It does not work through the roots, it works through the foliage. That's why you need to avoid spraying it on plants when rain is due, and why you can wash it off plants that have been accidentally sprayed to save them.

      Clever little blighters, those Monsanto scientists.

      As to China - everything comes from China these days!

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    26. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Robert,

      Thanks for youir comment and further to it, there are a number of sites on the net which give brief descriptions of the functioning of roundup. One of the simp;llest statements is:

      "The science

      The most advanced weedkiller on earth

      Roundup incorporates a highly effective systemic action, developed originally by Roundup for the agricultural industry. Here’s how it works:
      Roundup is sprayed on to the leaves of the weed
      It's absorbed through the leaves and enters the plant's…

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    27. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to John Nicol

      Hi John,

      Years ago (early 70s) I visited a farm in the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. The farmer was trying to develop sustainable agriculture.

      1. He did not clear-fell. He left lines of trees for shelter for his and wild beasts.

      2. He did not burn the trees and bushes he had felled. Rather, he left them in windrows, and used the wood for fuel over the next couple of decades. They were full of wild animal dens, but he did not worry about them.

      3. Farmers normally use lots of fuel…

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    28. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Rotha Jago

      Glyphosate is a farmer's excuse for poor cultivation techniques. It has noting to do with Golden Rice which is nothing more than ordinary rice with a higher Vit. A content. You are confusing a healthy product with one deliberately attached to Monsanto's profits. Two entirely different outcomes from the same breeding technique.

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    29. In reply to Mike Brisco

      Comment removed by moderator.

    30. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Julie Thomas

      Bless your wee cotton socks. I hope they are nice and crafty. Yes there are people in this world who are considerably less sour than your writings. How many of the world's enterprises qualify for inclusion in your definition of "moral compass is a big fat failure'. All of them ? And sneering is an unproductive, insolent, brainless exercise - enjoy it if you must, but realise there are many people in the world who find it offensive.

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    31. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      The only negative in minimum cultivation farming is that there is the probability that without some form of deep ripping as an integral part of the exercise, the land will become packed to such an extent that root penetration is adversely affected. The benefit coming from a 'summer fallow' should not be underestimated: soil structure is vastly improved, water penetration likewise and many competing weed seeds are destroyed. There is always a 'best' way to till the soil or to not till the soil, but essentially it depends on the soil itself. One does not treat a raw sand in the same manner as a heavy clay, for instance. An understanding of the soil one deals with is paramount in making the correct assumptions. What suited your farmer on the Eyre Peninsular would be unsuitable for a potato grower at Koo Wee Rup.

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  2. Emilie Choukry

    artist

    The world isn't short of food as from information that I read and hear in the media vast amounts of food is thrown away.
    The world is short on sharing .
    We wouldn't be even having this discussion if capitalist market wasn't so greedy.
    Unfortunately I am of a generation that remembers the failures of not doing adequate testing.
    We do need to ask ourselves what would we agree on as an adequate testing time be for GM ?
    5 years ? 10 years ? 25 years ? I don't know as I am not smart in the science department.
    However form my limited understanding I am not comfortable with GM being like a live experiment off- shore in poorer nations.

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    1. Robert Shield

      Production Manager

      In reply to Emilie Choukry

      Short on sharing is right. No mention, in an otherwise frank and sensible article about science vs values, of patents and controlling food supply? I would have thought this was a major objection to GM.

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Robert Shield

      Thanks Robert - that constitutes a large part of the basis of my partial problem with GM food. I'd also want to add in concerns about the whole current industrial-style approach to agriculture and the range of economic/social/distribution problems that Emilie raises.

      I don't think it's so much about 'rejecting science' as it is about understanding that real world issue like golden rice are about much more than just science and take place in a context far more complex and manipulate dthan the laboratory.

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  3. Dean Suckling

    Ag & Environmental Consultant

    If someone you don't know turned up on your doorstep promising a brand new shiny car for free, what would be your response.
    They qualify "but we always give away brand new shiny cars for free". Does that help?
    The range of response would be from "gimme" to "no way, I know you will want the value and more back from me" to "I don't need a car".
    Selling a free car could be quite complex, selling science is no different. Every scientist is turning up with a free car (in their mind), I see it as turning up on my doorstep with choice I have to make.

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  4. Fred Moore

    Builder

    GMO is not just about individual tweaks to genes. It is not just about people accepting the good as well as the bad consequences of GMO.

    Its about the THERMODYNAMICS of artificial cropping in domains that are already depleted of entropy (energy & order).

    GMO can realise temporary gains in yield and quality and disease resistance, but at the heart of this is increased use of OIL or Petroleum products.

    When the OIL goes, the GMO benefits will go.

    The whole thermodynamic POINT here is that…

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  5. Sybil Free

    retired

    What a narrow view to consider that those who oppose GM food oppose science. If that we're the case then it would include Dr David Suzuki who in his Recent Beale lecture said he opposes GM because we don't know enough to say there would be no adverse consequences. For example the disastrous effects of DDT in the environment.
    Please, take your blinkers off. I am a huge supporter of science but still oppose GM.

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    1. Rotha Jago

      concerned citizen

      In reply to Sybil Free

      I am another supporter of science and a sceptic where GM is concerned. Especially Monsanto GM. Growers of Monsanto GM seeds are obliged to use Glyphosate. Glyphosate destroys the life in the soil so farmers must keep buying nutrients. Glyphosate's ability to break the Shikimate Pathway disrupts the good microbes in our bodies and causes illness. So GM without Glyphosate? maybe.

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    2. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Sybil Free

      During the recent Q&A with David Suzuki, the person representing the IPCC mentioned that carbon dioxide captured by the oceans was causing "acidity" to increase and then immediately qualified himself to talk about changes to the "pH",

      Unfortunately, pH DECREASES as acidity INCREASES, a source of confusion to any of the large pack of lawyers in Abbott's Cabinet.

      The important message is that an increase in acidity means that sea creatures such as corals and plankton have increasing difficulty making and retaining their exo-skeletons / shells (calcium carbonate based) in acidic water. Just like DDT caused great problems for birds by making their egg shells thin and fragile.

      Thus the basis of food for higher forms of sealife we rely on for food are adversely affected. An opportunity lost to show ordinary mortals why the science affects us all.

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    3. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to Rotha Jago

      "Growers of Monsanto GM seeds are obliged to use Glyphosate."

      Absolute rubbish.

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    4. wilma western

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Sybil Free

      But Sybil,you can't have watched last Monday's Q & A where Dr Suzuki was the one-person panel. Several knowledgeable questioners asked why he opposed Gm foods such as golden rice and the banas with beta carotine added, pointing out that the genes added were from closely related plant strains. Suzuki said he did not oppose this kind of GM - frankly he had to admit he wasn't up to date with some of the latest GM stuff, and accepted that these 2 examples were pretty good.

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    5. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Luke Weston

      No one is obliged to use glyphosate. The particular Monsanto-bred crop was resistant to glyphosate damage and therefor the crop could be over-sprayed with that weedkiller. It merely saved the farmer from using a more conventional method of destroying the weeds in his field. Nothing to do with ethics or dangerous foods. The soil suffered more than the humans who ingested the crop due to the lack of adequate cultivation and aeration. The other problem is that the weed population tended to encourage the woody weeds which are more resistant to glyphosate. What a bugger ! Nothing is fun anymore.

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    1. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      You make a great point, Peter. i think that there is also a problem in that facts are the message rather than reasoning. The great success of the 'climate-sceptics' is that all they have to do is have one spokesperson give one counter-fact and it is as just as convincing.
      The dearth of scientific literacy in our media surely doesn't help. Whe else bar the ABC has science reporters with tertiary science credentials?

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      Thoroughly agree with everything you say, Peter. I too would rather not 'win an argument' if it required any kind of trickery to do so. I think that, while you can sometimes win in the short term with cunning reframing and so forth, you risk your long term reputation for candour and frankness. You also risk the problem that people will appear to be 'converted' but will not really understand the situation so that there future behaviours are not as reliable as would be those of someone who 'converted…

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    3. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      Peter,
      What a sensible comment ... until we get to the bit "I am inclined to accept a lot of science outside my area of expertise because it looks trustworthy". You would know that this is dangerous. I know what you mean, but in theory you should familiarise yourself with the science before adopting it. Belief is not a good guide.
      I guess your position is OK for your personal life, but it is possible to do damage if you try to impose that belief on others through advocacy.

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    4. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      Thank you for that elegant comment, Peter.

      You have touched on something really important - that science is an elaborate model that is based on accumulated evidence, and therefore open to continuous modification and refinement (though rarely to revolution).

      I've lost count how many times I've heard that doctors are untrustworthy because ''doctors used to advise people to smoke.'' We don't think engineers are untrustworthy because there used to be lead in petrol, or teachers are untrustworthy because some used to punish left-handedness. All of human activity adapts itself to increasing evidence and better ways of doing things. That doesn't mean that the old ways were ''wrong'' - in their context.

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    5. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix,
      Well, yes, when I meet a problem that is not beyond my skills.
      But, what has this to do with the theme here?

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    6. Greg Wood

      Energy Consultant

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      All very well to look at the facts but these are necessarily ordered by the context and premise base of the situation. Should such guiding parameters become awry or grossly manipulated, then the fact base itself becomes dangerously misleading.

      I've heard that the vaunted vitamin A deficiency is due to widespread consumption of white rice. Why not then simply eat brown rice?

      More holistically than that, traditional rice farming supported an ecosystem of greens and fish within the paddies. This…

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    7. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      But in the case of GMOs Monsanto's facts are disputed by independent scientists. Who am I to believe, the transparent studies of the independents or the shoddy manipulated stuff paid for by Monsanto?

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    8. Peter Campbell

      Scientist (researcherid B-7232-2008)

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      "What a sensible comment ... until we get to the bit "I am inclined to accept a lot of science outside my area of expertise because it looks trustworthy". You would know that this is dangerous. I know what you mean, but in theory you should familiarise yourself with the science before adopting it. Belief is not a good guide."
      My point here was that none of us can be the world's leading expert in absolutely everything. Consequently, we have to provisionally accept most of what we encounter as likely to be believable or not based on reasonable judgement but incomplete information. As one who is engaged in research science I feel reasonably comfortable about my ability to judge science outside my area by the way it is being explained and reported and how it being received by those with expertise closer to the area and so on. Of course having a reasonably good familiarity with science in general helps.

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  6. John Newton

    Author Journalist

    If there is no problem with GM crops, can someone please answer the following questions.

    Why has Monsanto dealt in subterfuge, misinformation and brazen lying over the years?

    Why is every single scientific report that finds a possible problem with Monsanto crops attacked with vehemence and cunning, often – and this has been proven – by correspondence from invented correspondent? Pustzai and Chapela are not the only two to have been treated this way.

    Why is it so difficult if not impossible…

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to John Newton

      Agree......GM is tainted by association with Monsanto.
      It has had an aggressive and often sinister approach to it's operations.

      This has the effect of many people's negative response to GM foods.

      The CSIRO scientist on Q&A the other night was working on bananas with an increased Vitamin A component for African countries.
      This seemed to be great work and of benefit to humanity.
      So there appears to be two sides to GM foods.........

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    2. Ian Fraser

      Independent researcher

      In reply to John Newton

      John Newton's comment is crucial towards understanding the communication problem between scientists and activists. When the corporation(s) which benefit from commercialising scientific advances practise high levels of secrecy and, as applies to Monsanto, are quick to sue perceived opponents, how can scientists or anybody else not be sceptical about their statements on the safety of their products?

      Rod's article is fine for what it says, but unfortunately it does not also refer to the communication from the corporations who benefit from science.

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    3. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Another opportunity missed on Q&A.

      Suzuki asked the CSIRO scientist whether his gene modification was "intra-species", and then the two discussed how what was being done was to select the best characteristics of bananas, rather than inter-species - combining genes from different organisms.

      The first is not different in principle to what people have been doing for millenia - selecting the most suitable stock (by various criteria) for propagation.

      The second, the creation of chimera, is another kettle of fish entirely. Kiwi fruit OK, plants with animal genes. no.

      Pity that Tony Jones did not do his usual trick of taking over the debate to explore the issues in the latter approach.

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    4. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Ian Fraser

      Ian,
      How much "secrecy" does you personal medico engage in?
      You write "it does not also refer to the communication from the corporations who benefit from science". Why should the corporations communicate? They are spending the money on product formulation, they are offering products to a market that can choose to reject it. Where is the bad?
      Do you seek to impose similar obligations on the makers of your morning Corn Flakes?
      You should not comment on these matters unless you are qualified in the science.

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    5. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Tony Jones simply does not have the training to ask such questions.
      That is part of the problem, communicators without involvement in the actual science.

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    6. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Interesting comparison here between multinational chemical manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies.

      One can reject poor commercial or ethical behaviour when it occurs, while continuing to value the antibiotics, vaccines and asthma medications that they manufacture.

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    7. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Geoffrey, you really should disclose your qualifications to act as a science guru - as several of your interlocutors have demanded!

      My Ph.D thesis was entitled "Non-Stoichiometric Oxide-Fluorides Of Some Rare-Earth Elements". I trust this proves I can communicate on scientific matters?

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    8. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Qualifications? Have already done so, am not going to do it every time someone asks in desperation to prove me wrong. Attack the message, not the messenger.
      Irrespective of your thesis topic - and yes, I know what non-stoichiometric means and have done so since the 1960s - it alone is not proof of your ability to communicate.
      I suspect that a few years more of rubbing shoulders with the real world will get you on the road to philosophical arguments about communicating science. I'm retired now, I know what my life has achieved.
      I hope you can show that your thesis experience taught you some good manners as well.

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    9. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Why not expand your profile a bit? Why use "Boss" as your Gnome de Plume, when you are retired now. What does Mrs Sherrington think?

      People are not attacking you so much as wondering about why you are so keen on ruling people in or out of qualification to discuss scientific matters.

      As to my Ph.D thesis, I gave it as an example of how strange and remote fundamental scientific research is to normal mortals, and even to fellow scientists.

      As to my ability to communicate, I think it comes almost in spite of my scientific expertise and experience - an opinion fitting in with the title of the conversation.

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    10. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Thanks, Sue - that's exactly the kind of distinction I think it is vital that we recognise and not fall into the trap of assuming that all objections to something are objections to the underpinning science.

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    11. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      But who funded the scientist's research? I would need to know that before making a a judgement one way or the other.

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    12. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Where scientific research is conducted carefully to a high standard and the results written up, submitted for publication in a reputable scientific journal, peer-reviewed both by the publication reviewers prior to publication and by the wider scientific community after publication, and the work is reproduced and built upon by other scientists, then it doesn't make any difference if the research is done at Greenpeace or it's done at Monsanto, assuming that all such groups actually publish the research in question in such a fashion.

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    13. John Newton

      Author Journalist

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      The bananas are an interesting case. As I have commented elsewhere
      1. The beta carotene for the 'golden banana' was taken from another banana. Would it not have been easier - but not as interesting for scientists - to grow the banana with heightened levels of bet-carotene where needed?
      2. Extracting one micro-nurrient - beta-carotene - from its environment surrounded by thousands of other micr-nutrients is, as I understand it, reductive science: the extracted element may only really work to advantage in it's natural environment

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    14. John Newton

      Author Journalist

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      One more comment Stephen. Is Monsanto's aggressive, sinister, approach to GM a result of its long association with such products as Dioxins, DDT and PCBs or is the reaction because like those other wonderful Monsanto products, there is much to hide?

      My long and reasonably deep reading of the history of GMOs leads me to believe it is the latter.

      I am not a scientist, but I have tried to read both sides iof the story. This proves difficult because it is extremely difficult to find reports on GMOs which have been favourable to them and which have not bee sponsored/paid for by biotech companies either directly or indirectly by funding the organisations who do the testing

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    15. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to John Newton

      I agree that Monsanto have behaved in a reprehensible way over the past decades. But they have more or less been exposed as behaving badly.

      It also is my opinion that GM foods have a great deal of benefit for food production, and that we don't want to throw thee baby out with the bathwater.

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    16. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Eric Ireland

      Hi Eric,

      Understood - it's amazing. The fact that the heavy atoms in our bodies (iron, for example) were created by exploding stars is amazing.

      I am very happy with intra-species GMO as we have been doing for thousands of years.

      However, it does not mean that it is safe to play around with inter-species GMO.

      My post on the facts of nutrition ("You are what you eat") means I think that the food I ingest is broken down into its component parts (fats, protein, carbohydrates etc) which are…

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    17. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Stephen John Ralph

      Just what are all these sins that Monsanto has been accused of committing?

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    18. John Newton

      Author Journalist

      In reply to John Nicol

      Read The world According to Monsanto by Marie Monique Robin for a summary

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    19. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to John Newton

      John Newton,

      What is fairly obvious here is that since there are a large number of different varieties of banana and the GM work involves taking bananas whose growing and survival characteristics in the target environment is superior to the rest and combing with it, genes which provide the higher beta-carotene or Vitamin A characteristic in its fruit.

      Alternatively, following your suggestion 1., one could, very slowly, achieve almost exactly the same thing with the age old process of crossbreeding…

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    20. wilma western

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Funny thing was T Jones did intervene ever so gently to bring Suzuki up to date about the point a questioner was making. Can't remember the actual examples now but it happened a couple of times .

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    21. John Newton

      Author Journalist

      In reply to John Nicol

      Just taking one of your points John, that the age old systme of selective breeding takes 100 years.

      Some years ago I visited the Toolangi potato breeding station. I can assure you they were getting results way quicker than a century.

      Orchardist regularly breed varieties from 'sports' that can be ready for to go in a couple of years.

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    22. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to John Newton

      The scientist who is working on the project says that in parts of Africa the banana is a significant part of the diet. That diet is also low in Vitamin A resulting in diseases. To grow a banana with a Vit A component will help the population to overcome diseases brought about by Vit A deficiency.

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    23. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to John Newton

      Thanks John. I accept that with the selection of sports the process may be much quicker and such cases as the breeding of poly sheep and cattle from types which were previously horned provides a much quicker process than the one I have described. If this were to occur in a population of bananas where one or other of the set suddenly acquired from a past genetic flaw or or whatever, both the ability to thrive and the ability to provide enhanced Vitamin A then yes that would be fine and hopefully…

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    24. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to John Newton

      Sorry, but I think you should leave plant breeding to the plant breeders. You write as if you are out of your depth.

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    25. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Luke Weston

      Of course but the research must be published and the reviews need to be independent if they are to have credibility. Does Monsanto research undergo the scrutiny necessary to satisfy the criteria you have outlined? If it does where is it?

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    26. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Obviously peer review is not perfect and there are flaws and biases in the various journals that can exclude worthy submissions while accepting other, often more mainstream works which may then be subject to review by peers already "infected" by that mainstream view or dogma.

      This has probably been the case for decades with regard to critiques of the neo-classical dogma that has taken hold of economics and been accepted by academics and practitioner and then passed onto their students. It is probably the more or less unquestioning acceptance of this dogma that has lead to the ongoing financial crisis that appears to be unresolvable. For more on this refer to Australian economist Steve Keen's book "Debunking Economics".

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  7. Gavin Moodie
    Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Adjunct professor at RMIT University

    Thanx for drawing attention to Kahan and colleagues' work, which I had not come across before and found very interesting. A poster to the Yale site Morton Brussel asks interestingly: 'Has Kahan made a poll of physical scientists, or even scientists as a whole, to see what their opinions are regarding climate science? And correlate that with their politics?'

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    1. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Why, Gavin.
      Politics is a separate field.

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  8. Mike Swinbourne

    logged in via Facebook

    ".....While I abhor the action of she and her mob, and in fact loudly condemned it at the time, this quote suggests hers is patently not an anti-science position.....But it is certainly an anti-GM one...."

    I disagree Rod - her's is most definitely an anti-science position.

    You cannot pick and choose which science you accept and which you reject based on ideology. And make no mistake, that is exactly what she did. GM crops did not fit with her ideology, and no matter what the science said about them, she rejected it.

    Climate change deniers are the same. Most of them accept other branches of science such as biology etc, but because climate change does not conform with their ideology they reject it.

    Science is - or should be - about evidence and rational thought. And to reject that because you don't like the results is most definitely anti-science.

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    1. Brett Forbes

      Technology Developer

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Good call Mike,

      hahahaha, great comeback, nice one!

      Yes it is true, I am not anti science, I am against corporations using science to develop monopolies over the food market. This is an issue I become emotive about, too true, well spotted.

      Thus we do have the same perspective.

      Thanks for the reply :)

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    2. Brett Forbes

      Technology Developer

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Hi Mike,
      Since I answered ur question and we seem on the same track, whats ur opinion on:
      1. The use of GM to promote a herbicide-based farming approach
      2. The use of GM to promote one or multiple anti-insect (e.g. Bt) poisons to be expressed, which ultimately fast-evolving insects like helicoverpa (cotton-pest) evolve against, and leads to an upgrade treadmill for farmers. Once your on GM, you can't get off and need to keep upgrading. Surely a far better approach would be to use science to culture large amounts of these insects natural killers, baculoviruses
      3. The use of GM vertical integration by Monsanto, where pig farmers in the US are feeding their GM pigs with GM corn, and finding inexplicable yield declines (reuced birth rates)

      To summarise, all of the issues above are related to what corporations do with the science, not the science itself

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    3. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Brett Forbes

      Brett

      I am not familiar enough with the specifics, so it would be wrong for me to offer an opinion on some of the questions you have asked.

      However, in general, I must say that I do understand - at least in part - the attitudes of corporations. They spend a lot of money on research to introduce new crops, and they do need to have a return on that investment. Allowing unfettered use of their products would significantly undermine that. I would suggest that this is a legislative issue rather…

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    4. Brett Forbes

      Technology Developer

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      Hi Peter,

      So that's where we differ.

      When I hear the term GM, I don't think of the science, I think of the corporations using the science to own the food chain.

      I have no problem with the science, many of the researchers have altruistic objectives.

      I have a problem with the actions of the corporations that own the Intellectual Property.

      Also, I would suggest to you that while the science of developing GM has been settled, the science of the impact of GM (on non-GM crops, the environment, farmers and consumers) has not been setlled.

      Thus it seems to me to be somewhat specious to consider that it has been settled. Remember thalidomide? I'm sure the researchers of the time also thought the science was settled.

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    5. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Mike,
      Have you ever worked in a corporation?
      If not, from where do you get your knowledge to comment?

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    6. Rex Gibbs

      Engineer/Director

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      See, insult and demean people by calling them deniers in itself abusive and all you get is abusive responses. Hence comments below removed. That is what this article is about. And yet Mike immediately starts insulting people who do not accept the consensus.

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    7. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Rex Gibbs

      "....See, insult and demean people by calling them deniers..."

      Just a statement of fact Rex.

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    8. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Brett Forbes

      Brett Forbes - what exactly do you mean by ''remember thalidomide?''

      As a medical practitioner, I remember Thalidomide as an example of the evolution of knowledge and expectations in pharmacology.

      Decades ago, the science of teratogenesis (causation of foetal abnormalities) was in its infancy. Thalidomide was an effective drug - but had not been tested in pregnant women. It was by scientific observation that the link was discovered, and the drug was removed from practice (although it has returned…

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    9. Brett Forbes

      Technology Developer

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Hi sue, thanks for your response.

      My comment on thalidomide was to highlight the issue of unintended consequences that lay outside of the original scope of the study.

      Thus, in the late part of the last century, scientists thought they were doing the right thing, but because of imperfect knowledge they whole program got struck down by unintended consequences.

      The same could be said of nanomaterials, which are now ubiquitous and are starting to be shown to be deleterious to the health of any organism (nano-sunscreen anybody).

      Thus, while you may tell me that within the current scope of what you know, GM-modified foods pose no threat, this does not hold much weight as we know our knowledge is imperfect, and no one has tested the unintended consequences

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    10. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Brett Forbes

      Brett,
      Why do you pick one bad example when there are many, many times more good examples?
      Is your glass half full or half empty?
      You might like to inform us how to test for unintended consequences.
      If you wish to put impediments in the way of progress in science, you can try, but that would be anti-science you're doing. It's just painfully obvious to all that there will be mistakes, but how does emphasising past ones help to advance thoughts?

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    11. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Hi Sue,

      For some reason(s) Dr McBride suspected thalidomide re teratogenesis and concocted data to support his judgement / guess.

      Subsequently (I think) other scientific research prompted by his fraud discovered he was in fact correct. He was heavily punished for his scientific fraud, but I imagine he found solace in any case.

      I understand thalidomide has turned out to be very effective in the treatment of leprosy. Who would have thought!

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    12. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Brett Forbes

      Brett, our knowledge will always be imperfect, but that should never be a reason to do nothing.

      Do GM crops pose no threat? I doubt it. There is almost certainly to be an issue crop up (pun intended!) at some time in the future where a particular GMO has unforeseen and undesirable 'side effects'. But the issue should not be that we do nothing until our knowledge is perfect - it will never be. And unfortunately, this issue of 'uncertainty' is exactly the approach used by many in the anti-science camp when they want their way on their particular hobby horse.

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    13. Matt Stevens

      Senior Research Fellow/Statistician/PhD

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Agrre with you Mike.
      "Protestations from the pro-GM side that opposition to their work is simply not supported by the scientific literature shows an understandable, and fervent, devotion to science. But it can also sound detached, indignant, even righteous."

      I would say the protester is the one being almighty righteous!

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    14. Brett Forbes

      Technology Developer

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Geoffery,

      My glass is half full, thanks for asking.

      With regard to your question "It's just painfully obvious to all that there will be mistakes, but how does emphasising past ones help to advance thoughts?"

      I would have thought this a joke, but perhaps you are serious. If so, then the reason we want to know about past failures is to help improve the process so that they don't happen again.

      With regard to testing for unintended consequences in GMO, how about:
      - experiments done by scientists…

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    15. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Brett Forbes

      Brett Forbes,

      Can you quote the source of these claims about reduced birth rates in pigs? I believe this is not correct.

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    16. John Newton

      Author Journalist

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Science is - or should be - about evidence and rational thought.

      Agree. but when science gets mixed up with money - then you have a problem

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    17. wilma western

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      The most recent crop trampling of trial plots by anti-GM activists has damaged the work not of corporations like Monsanto but of publicly-funded research institutes who usually do not look for profits in return for the resources put into the work.

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    18. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to wilma western

      I guess you didn't read th article then Wilma.

      ".....the authors quote a Greenpeace activist who was part of the group who destroyed an experimental crop at a CSIRO facility in 2011. She apparently said she is: a huge fan of what the CSIRO does in many areas, and particularly on climate change and … yes … but I believe that not all science is equal...."

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  9. Chris Sanderson

    CEO

    I suspect that science is copping the antipathy that many people feel towards the mega corporations who market (in this case) GM products.

    350.org, on behalf of humanity, has recently declared war on the fossil fuel industry (FFI) because the world has to stop burning fossil fuels to reduce the amount of CO2 that we emit, or eventually make the planet uninhabitable.

    The FFI are the world's wealthiest and most powerful industry group in the world and they have been sabotaging for the last 30…

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    1. trevor prowse

      retired farmer

      In reply to Chris Sanderson

      Chis said "Those corporations who market GM products have been ruthless in waging war on farmers who want to retain the right not to buy GM and continue to plant their own seed."---could you give examples---I have been farming in Western Australia for 38 years and have never been forced to do anything by any corporation.

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  10. Peter Franklin

    Retired

    As mentioned in John Troughton's comment, there is an ethical question that arises with some scientific work. In these cases many objectors would not deny the science and the results from studies, but do not want science to be conducted in the first place. Some areas of science might lead to a world disaster if adopted.

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    1. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Peter Franklin

      Peter,
      The world has run that scenario with nuclear bombs and survived.
      Have you not drawn comfort from the success of measures that prevented large nuclear war?
      What guidelines would (could) you use to censor certain scientific research?

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    2. Brett Forbes

      Technology Developer

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Geoffery, Geoffery, Geoffery,

      you have niavety in spades

      how is research done without funding?

      now let me see, the government funded the atomic bomb

      who funded glyphosate-resistant soy, corn etc?

      Was it the government?

      Some issues are not about science, but the use of the science

      To assert that these issues are the preserve of scientists is foolishness. Its not about science, but the ethics of the use of science

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    3. Edwina Laginestra
      Edwina Laginestra is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Jack of all trades

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      And Geoffrey, I read that the scientists involved in nuclear fission originally rejected that their discovery could be used for evil "no scientific bad boy will be able to blow up the world by releasing atomic energy" (Millikan I believe), and then were sorry that their work had been used like this. Science is not just about "facts" and we (yes I am a scientist) need to think about possible values/uses when working. I don't think it was the scientists or the science that prevented nuclear war.

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    4. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      "The world has run that scenario with nuclear bombs and survived." - so far.

      MAD - Mutually Assured Destruction - was the basis for saving us from US and Russian deliberate or accidental destruction.

      The Ethics Committees that vet proposals for research protect us from the more egregious mis-steps in areas involving playing with human life, and even test animal life.

      How you might extend that to other domains is a bit of a problem.

      Any thoughts, Boss?

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    5. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      What do you want me to comment on?
      You've just wandered through a few of your personal thoughts that most people know of.

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    6. Peter Franklin

      Retired

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Did I advocate anything GHS?
      Science at universities come under ethics committees and they from time to time decree that some experiments/research can not proceed. You may interpret that as censor, but my guess is that at some point even you would deem an experiment unacceptable.

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    7. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Geoffrey,

      I simply posed the question about how to manage science in its various domains to prevent unintended consequences.

      As a geochemist you would be well aware of the (exhaustive) Environmental Impact Statements that currently are required before exploiting mineral resources. Do you think these should be scrapped / strengthened / handled by the States / by the Commonwealth?

      I don't think MAD will protect us from different nations trying to manage Climate Change. How do you handle one nation shitting in the nest of us all?

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  11. Elizabeth Skidmore

    housewife

    I believe I have the right to put whatever food I want in my mouth regardless of the "science". GMOs should be labelled at the least. I will be erring on the safe side and not eating GMOs. Science has been disproven in the past. What about glyphosate resistance in weeds that may create super weeds in crops. What about long term effects on the environment and people we haven't thought of. What about the rights of the organic farmers whose crops are being cross contaminated. I think it is a trust issue. In general, big corporations mean big money which can equal a lot of corruption. It has happened in the past.

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  12. Jeremy O'Wheel

    logged in via Facebook

    This is a strawman argument. Nobody thinks that the activists are opposed to "all science." They are labelled as "anti-science" because they choose which science they believe and which science they reject based on their ideology, rather than based on the science. They believe, despite decades of evidence, that GMOs are inherently dangerous to human health, and this belief justifies their actions. If they were to approach the issue scientifically, they would look at the evidence and then draw a conclusion, rather than drawing a conclusion, and then trying to find the occasional shoddy study, usually written by Gilles-Eric Seralini to support their position.

    If you pick and choose which science you believe, based on your preconceived ideology, you're "anti-science," even though you obviously accept some science as true.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Jeremy O'Wheel

      Jeremy, fair point if the objection to GM is framed purely or primarily on 'the science' - but a great deal of objection is based on far different social/economic/technological concerns, many of which have been discussed above.

      So objection to GM may not be based on 'picking and choosing' science so much as recognising that science operates in a complex real world and some technical solutions end up having implications far beyond the science that created them.

      The danger of forgetting these factors and corraling everything into a narrow technical argument is that science can become simplistic, naive and rationalistic.

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  13. Katy MacDougal

    Research Officer

    This article makes it sound like GM foods have been extensively tested and that all research on them is positive and that it's been proved perfectly healthy to eat. This hasn't happened yet and some research has shown negative outcomes. And just look at Monsanto and all the related issues to their crops, their pesticides and designing plants that you can't save seed from so farmers have to keep buying their (patented) seeds. And let's not forget them *successfully* suing farmers for 'stealing' their…

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    1. wilma western

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Katy MacDougal

      So Katy the research you do in your research officer job hasn't informed you about the extensive and demanding testing of GM foods by govt-funded bodies such as FSANZ , nor has it informed you that the people of north America have been eating GM grains and food ingredients for about 30 years with so far no adverse health effects identified as relating to GM?

      New crops resulting fromtraditional plant breeding aren't tested.

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    2. Edwina Laginestra
      Edwina Laginestra is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Jack of all trades

      In reply to wilma western

      Hi Wilma
      not sure if testing requirements have changed much in the last decade but it used to be that companies provided info requested without much "independent" analysis, and that was put on file, often just in case a problem arose and they could go back and look.

      And I'm not sure I'd be jumping to conclusions about no adverse health effects identified yet. Not sure we have all the indicators sorted. But if some of the indicators were an increasing number of conspiracy theories or such, then the jury could still be out.

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    3. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Edwina Laginestra

      Hi Edwina,

      See http://gmojudycarman.org/ for an excellent discussion about the chances of finding adverse effects of GM in time.

      Dr Judy Carman shows how long it would take to actually recognise and then do something about this.

      Gives two examples (at least):

      1. The time it took to recognise and do something about smoking - years, with the purveyors of death sticks still fighting tooth and nail to keep business as usual;

      2. The time it took to recognise HIV / AIDS - discovered when someone noticed that a particular pharmaceutical was being used a lot - by various doctors treating various patients spread around the country.

      She published as part of an effort to get food labelling in place,

      And thanks for your feedback.

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    4. Lisa Hodgson

      Director

      In reply to wilma western

      Hi Wilma,

      a couple of points:

      FSANZ has never tested any GM food whatsoever. They rely on industry tests and only *examine the evidence provided by non-independant applicants. AQIS does not test for GM foods in imported products, neither do State Health Departments. Which Government bodies are you referring to that do extensive and demanding tests?

      North America has not been eating GM for 30 years, more like 20. Initially mostly corn, soy, canola and cotton seed. Adverse health effects have been identified by individuals who's health improves by eliminating GMOs from their diets. Some US Drs are now recommending GM Free diets and are seeing great improvements in their patients health.

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  14. Michael Rumbold
    Michael Rumbold is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Person

    it is so simplistic to divide the world up into those pro and anti GMO and pro and anti science. When the general public think of GMO they think of big agribusiness like Monsanto, people understand that these companies are not foundations for public good but companies which are profit driven. To have high profits companies reduce costs and keep prices high via patents and restricted access to the product.
    With golden rice I do not know if the rice is patented by a large agribusiness company if so I personally would be concerned - companies are not motivated by the public good.
    If GMO scientists want to get greater acceptance of their work they need seek funds from other than agribusiness - may be from organisations like the Gates foundation as people can see GMO research being motivated by public good rather than private profit (even if there is a side effect of health benefits)

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    1. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Michael Rumbold

      "companies are not motivated by the public good."

      Exactly, and motivation is a very important issue that Dan Kahan - referred to in the article - at the Cultural Cognition blog talks about in great detail.

      The Cultural Cognition group are arguing that it is the motivations of individuals that determine how they 'think' about science that determines the conclusions they arrive at.

      It used to be generally accepted that scientists were 'good' people motivated by the desire to find out stuff that would benefit the world. But that assumption, that a group of people could be motivated by an intrinsic desire to do good for people in general has changed. Why?

      Is it obvious that there has been some serious social engineering going on, by the rich and powerful, to change the values that ordinary people had toward profit at all costs or what was once called 'money-grubbing'

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    2. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Julie Thomas

      "companies are not motivated by the public good."

      I'd be interested to know how most people would compare - say - vehicle manufacturers with GMO manufacturers.

      Motor vehicle manufacturers are not motivated by the public good - but by progress and profits - like most industry. Motor vehicles have caused countless deaths through collision, and much illness through the used of leaded petrol, decreased physical activity etc. And they have only improved these features due to regulation.

      So, are motor vehicle manufacturers more ethical than GMO manufacturers?

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  15. Philip White

    PhD Student at University of Adelaide

    This talk of persuasion assumes that the end point is that you intend to convince the doubters. What about the possibility that the doubters might convince you?
    But for GM scientists this is not an option because they are in the GM business, which is big business.
    So as long as you are talking about one way persuasion you are not talking about science at all. You are talking about public relations, in other words advertising.
    So it is the GM manufacturers who are anti-science.
    My conclusion: The people who destroy GM crops are heroes!

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    1. Edwina Laginestra
      Edwina Laginestra is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Jack of all trades

      In reply to Philip White

      I was wondering where to place some of my thoughts, and I like your turn of the argument. One concern I had with this article was the quote about "winning hearts and minds", which has worried me ever since the Iraq war. It just meant then we had to convince them about our argument and never about understanding where "others" were coming from. And there are many scientists still convinced they are objective and dealing only in facts, without acknowledgement that their questions, methods, interpretation of results are all based on values they have. That is all OK, but what is not OK is to reject someone else's observations - like when EPA scientists rejected residents observations of illness in Love Canal as "Housewife science" and Agriculture scientists rejected farmer observations of genetic mixing (yes Monsanto was involved). This is not (as outlined somewhere below) communistic, but perhaps a rejection of the paternalistic.

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  16. Michael Himbury

    logged in via Facebook

    Personally, I see no difference between the anti-GM activists and the Taliban or anti-evolution Christian fundamentalists. They all believe in science, as long as it suits their needs or supports their beliefs. But the moment it contradicts their core beliefs, they are immune to any rational argument and will strike out with violent fanaticism. In discussions with those who I have meet, I get the overwhelming impression their approach toward 'nature' is more theological than empirical. Of course you will get those who, on careful contemplation of the facts, will modify their beliefs in line with the empirical evidence (such as Mark Lynas - http://www.npr.org/2013/01/20/169847199/former-anti-gmo-activist-says-science-changed-his-mind) but they will be treated like all heretics to the faith, fit only for the bonfire.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Michael Himbury

      Michael, that's a rather hysterical and arguably abusive over-simplification. There has been considerable nuanced discussion already about the full range of reasons to have concerns about GM applications.

      I haven't seen anyone (well, maybe one) suporting the recent Greenpeace action in Canberra - I certainly don't - but many have insiste dthat the whole issue is complex and that objections to some facets of the application of GM technology can't just be dismissed as irrational or anti-scientific.

      Smug self-congratulation, hyperbolic images and claims of victimisation don't help advance a discussion that is important but complex.

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    2. Eric Ireland

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, I agree with you to a point, but the problem is that many anti-GM activists keep making statements like GM is "toxic". If they just said "we are politically opposed to the patenting of genes, particularly by X company who are manipulating the market etc.." that would be fine.

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    3. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Eric Ireland

      It would seem that many GMOs are toxic, at least to rats, but I agree that Monsanto's manipulation of the market (and governments) is a very serious concern.

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    4. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Eric Ireland

      Interesting and it seems as suggested the study could be improved upon. I found the comments by Paul Rogers on the article make sense. I would like to see Seralini's defence of the criticisms leveled at him and his study expanded and improved as suggested by another commentator. In the mean time the precautionary principle suggests that these products should be taken off the market or at the very least warning labels be attached to them

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  17. Guy Dixon

    Founder, Inventor, CEO at N.I.N.A Pty Ltd

    There is an old saying that experts always come from out of town (somewhere else)! The real issue here is to understand the fear that is building around GMO. In many ways globalisation is also seem as commoditisation and the big loser in the process tradition - for many peoples traditions are valuable and are constitute the framework in which self identity is established. What we do know is that traditions take a long time to build up and once lost they are very hard to rebuild or re-establish. Rural…

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  18. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

    Boss

    What a confused lot of communistic Vegemites we have on this thread, from authors through to bloggers.
    There are so many false claims that science might as well sit on the sidelines and be bashed by ignorants, Ghandi style.
    Good science is about discovering and rejecting false claims.
    ........................
    Example. It is wrong to single out genetic modification as an object of hate. The breeding experiments that have been going on by centuries are also a modifier of Nature's genes, yet that…

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    1. Brett Forbes

      Technology Developer

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Geoffery,

      Here's a test for you to discover and reject false claims
      1. Do the genes from GM modified crops migrate at all to non-GM crops?
      2. Do the farmers really need golden rice, is this the only way they can increase their Vitamin A, or could they just increase their consumption of other crops with Vitamin A, as suggested by Geoffery?
      3. Do you support the use of GM crops to use herbicide farming practices (e.g. glyphosate resistant soy). If so, what in your mind is the benefit of this…

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    2. Emilie Choukry

      artist

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      I respect your point and knowledge but I think you missed some of the the points.

      We are all in the 'Kitchen"...some of us may be just the kitchenhands and not the head chef but we are

      all in the kitchen and a kitchen functions as a team unless it only has one chef.

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    3. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Any one who uses labels like "communistic Vegemites" to denigrate opponents should be ignored whether he is a so-called boss or a humble serf.

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  19. gavin melles

    logged in via Twitter

    Dear Rod. Great pithy piece on the value of good communication. And the gaps between science and public. In an environment of ubiquitous uncertainty regarding climate change effects, social reactions, projections, etc., it is ever more important to present a more realistic picture of much science as reduction of uncertainty, especially where the policy and practice intersections with society are immanent.

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  20. John Troughton

    ANU Alumni

    The Conversation said
    "Attention scientists! How to win friends and influence people"
    Answer, money as per corporations in the USA

    Rod said
    "To change anti-science activists minds, go beyond science"
    Answer, More science, the science of behaviour, not beyond science.

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    1. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to John Troughton

      John.
      What nonsense you write.
      You sound like a person with excess time on hand, looking for someone else's patch to interfere in.
      Why not ask permission of scientists before you interfere in science?

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    2. Edwina Laginestra
      Edwina Laginestra is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Jack of all trades

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      And this is a prime example of why you should not separate "science" from the rest of our lives, it is part of it. We get problems when we divide out "environmentalists", "scientists", "economists", etc so we can reject their work, interpretations, warnings, lifestyles and so on when it doesn't agree with our values, instead of understanding how everything is part of our lives. We do science for a variety of reasons but generally it is for our society. We need to let me people know if we are testing on them, we need to ask their input. It would be great if permission was sought from scientists but probably in their experience they get nothing but superiority.

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    3. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to John Troughton

      Check how many people in the USA think that mankind and dinosaurs walked together.

      Apart from their religious mania, I wonder whether they have simply switched off science and technology in general as perceived to be driven by corporations / capitalism

      I agree that the "science of behaviour" is an issue, as are the various mind-numbing jargons of various disciplines.

      As to the Boss's personal abuse, it is a shame that people bother writing useless rubbish in a serious conversation.

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    4. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Geoffrey

      What nonsense you write!

      You sound like a person with excess time on hand looking for something to do to alleviate the boredom of your life. Perhaps you are so bored because your very ordinary mind/brain is unwilling to comprehend that everything you 'know' is probably wrong and you need to get up to speed with the really exciting new ideas about life, the universe, and everything.

      Have you heard of 'fractal wrongness'? Wiki it.

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    5. Emilie Choukry

      artist

      In reply to Julie Thomas

      Dear Geoffrey
      I think you do live up to your name....BOSS.. and heaven help the poor underlings who want to negotiate with you.

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    6. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Edwina Laginestra

      Edwina,
      Do stop trying to work out the motivations of people.
      You say people like me do "science ... generally it is for our society"
      Wrong.
      I did science for profit.
      If you think that is a wrong motive, prove it.

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    7. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Julie Thomas

      Julie,
      You are another of the condescending tone.
      Re fractals, I read the books of Benoit B Mandelbrot, I have an IBM calendar from 1993 showing the first steps of fractal art. I've created fractal art of my own, lots of it.
      If you rely on a lesser source like Wiki, that starts to indicate that you don't really have a good grasp of the topic.
      Which is a recurrent theme in my comments. Don't try to communicate science unless you have experience with it.
      There is no kudos to be gained by looking up other people's smartness on Wiki then quoting it. Anyone can do that, from greater or lesser positions of ignorance. No, I did not look it up as you suggest. That's kid stuff.

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    8. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Emilie Choukry

      Emilie,
      As I have stated many times, I did not choose that salutation. The mods at TC chose it. So, say you are sorry for being wrong.
      And stop working on (wrong) assumptions, try some research beforehand.

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    9. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Emilie Choukry

      Just to correct you Emilie, Geoffrey is not a boss in terms of leading a group of people.

      He is a cartoon adversary from a video game.

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    10. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Geoffrey

      So what that you can make fractals and have read Mandlebrot? You really don't understand what fractal wrongness is do you? LOL I think it is beyond your intellectual capacity. You are not a complex thinker. Look up concrete thinking.

      Wiki is a 'lesser' source? What gives with the value judgements? Are you God as well as Boss?

      (If Geoffrey is the boss from Zuma, I have nailed him first time, everytime.)

      But Geoffrey, do you actually understand what a 'value judgement' is? Wiki that term or use your 'superior' sources to research the idea of bounded rationality. Then work on understanding why your value judgements are fails.

      You silly little man, you do not even understand how little you understand about science.:(

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    11. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Julie Thomas

      "Have you heard of 'fractal wrongness'? Wiki it."

      Very funny. It should be adopted as a standardised response.

      "What would Hitler say?"

      "You are fractally wrong!"

      ROFL@FW

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    12. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Julie Thomas

      Julie,
      Here we go again, you are using ad homs where I don't, you assume I'm a silly little man.
      Actually, Julie, I'm about 6 ft 3 in on the old scale and weigh about 120 kg of muscle on the new scale. So that does away with the little bit. Silly - I suppose not, my colleagues kept promoting me to a quite senior position in science & society. Maybe they were silly too.
      There's a difference between me making a comment intended to express my thoughts, and a comment designed to put people down. I don't do the latter.
      When I throw forth a thought that challenges people to rethink, the response here is almost always devoid of the rethink and is almost always an attempt to put me down.
      If I make you uncomfortable, that does not mean that I'm wrong.

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    13. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Edwina Laginestra

      No, Edwina,
      There are good scientists and there is a group of people who offer not science, but words.
      The latter group seeks to invade the former. I say they are not invited to this party, so go home.

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    14. Edwina Laginestra
      Edwina Laginestra is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Jack of all trades

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Hi Geoffrey - I generally try and work out motivations so I can find common ground for a conversation. I also said "we do science...generally for our society". 2 points there - a generalisation makes for a shorter missive (generally does allow for exceptions) and it is not all about you. If you do science for profit (and many do) that helps in knowing where you are coming from but I'd also like to point out that if there weren't people in society interested in your science then you wouldn't be getting much profit.

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    15. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Geoffrey, you assume that, by 'little' I mean 'short'. That is concrete thinking. Can you imagine another way that 'little' could be used as an accurate description of your ability?

      You say your comments are throwing ' a thought that challenges people to rethink', but that is not how I, and I'd venture to suggest from other comments I have read, other people characterise your comments.

      There seems to be a theme that you are bossy and talking through your hat, perhaps even a hint of grandiosity?

      But I am really sorry that you feel put down Geoffrey. I'm sure you will cope, if not I can recommend a good psychologist.

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    16. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Edwina Laginestra

      Edwina,
      I've ended my career now so I can summarise its record. We made enormous profits, but not at the expense of other people. We took the specified cut of new value that we added to the Nation's resource inventory, we paid the prescribed taxes, royalties and other imposts.
      Sure, there is often an element of altruism in what we did. At one stage I was helping decide which charities to support and with how much, which is not exactly altruism but close to it.
      In reality, if it was not for society…

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    17. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Edwina Laginestra

      Edwina (and Geoffrey), google "Geoffrey Harold Sherrington."

      Is it possible we have an imposter here?

      Surely a "Professor in History of Education" would not be making statements like his?

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    18. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Julie Thomas

      Julie,
      I'm really pleased that you have found a good psychologist.
      Perhaps you can keep on theme and tell us how psychologists can better communicate their science.
      I don't feel put down at all. Just bemused by the brainwashing that many of the bloggers here have experienced without them realising it.

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    19. Emilie Choukry

      artist

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      My Dear Geoffrey
      Did you just have a.....do you know who I am moment ?
      Clearly you need to get out of the sun and be a good chap and have a good rest.
      I don't believe that you are the font of all knowledge but to appease you I will say that I am sorry for thinking that I think you are as my dear old mama would say...difficult.
      Next time we have a big flood could you please go down to the waters and turn back the tide .

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    20. Brett Forbes

      Technology Developer

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Robert,

      I just looked him up in Scopus

      He was a geochemist, with a magnificent publication record in Scopus of two documents, both in Journal of Geochemcial Exploration:
      - some aspects of natural gamma radiation in ore search
      - No.3 orebody, ranger one, Australia - a case study

      Just the kind of expert we need in a discussion on GMO.

      I have also found his posts in various climate change deniers websites, and have even discovered his unfinished website and an email address.

      What can you say, just another grumpy old geochemist, who believes he knows more than all of the scientific bodies in the world.

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    21. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Brett Forbes

      I trust this is not trolling, but you can see his contributions to TC by clicking on the name and perusing his Activities. The Profile is blank.

      Without wasting too much time, a quick scan shows a consistent theme through his posts in all topics is to claim that his interlocutors are not qualified to comment.

      Quite stunning!

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    22. Edwina Laginestra
      Edwina Laginestra is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Jack of all trades

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      you'd have to...most impressive words but I'd have to use Wikipedia otherwise (and we know that is beyond the pale). I used to have fun with words like multiple metastases and polymerase chain reaction (I forget the others) but usually managed to enlighten my Mum. So I figure if you know your stuff you can communicate about it to others (if they want to know). Do you have a link to your abstract?

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    23. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Edwina Laginestra

      Edwina,

      My Ph.D was completed in 1973, and my thesis sank without a trace. So no link, sorry. But you've made an old man very happy!.

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    24. Edwina Laginestra
      Edwina Laginestra is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Jack of all trades

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Shame - I've become rather interested in rare earth elements since that series on Rise of the Continents started (possibly before but wouldn't have a reason then). But keep up the good comments.

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    25. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Edwina Laginestra

      Edwina, just for fun (no wiki references):

      1. Stoichiometry refers to the tendency of chemical compounds to contain atoms in integral numbers. For example, Salt / Sodium Chloride always has one sodium atom for every chlorine atom. The observation of this fact was one of the foundations of chemistry's atomic theory and vice versa.

      Some natural compounds (hello our resident geochemist) seem to have variable compositions / to be "non-stoichiometric" while having the same crystal structure. Our…

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    26. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Yes, it is a bit like those in the parable who turned up at the wedding feast unprepared to honour the couple involved by wearing the appropriate clothes, and for their insults were bound and gaged and left gnashing their teeth in the darkness.

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  21. Edwina Laginestra
    Edwina Laginestra is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Jack of all trades

    Thanks for the article Rod. I read this story with interest and wasn't sure if I was still ready to comment on yours and yesterday's article regarding GMO. I am still wondering if I've quite got the essence of my concerns about 'science communication'. I find it interesting that people who reject a concept like climate science or GMO or vaccination are labelled anti-science. The controversy is rarely in the science but perhaps we like to say we argue about the science as we will be seen as more…

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  22. David Oakenfull

    food scientist

    Thank you for a really interesting and thought provoking article.

    We scientists need to be less one-eyed and arrogant. Unfortunately the Greenpeace activist you quoted is absolutely correct - not all science is equal. And as you say later in the article, 'Science practice is not immune from bias and self-interest.'

    The "industry effect" in pharmaceutical research is notorious (see, for example, "Bad Pharma" by Ben Goldacre). And it's equally, if not more, problematic in assessing the credibility…

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    1. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to David Oakenfull

      Hi David,

      I think the basis for the GM crop companies having such control is the ability to patent genes.

      The recent decision in Australia against the patenting of human genes (to free up genetic tests for breast cancer and so on) is very important. Subject to appeal, I think.

      Maybe there should be laws to allow for open comment on gene research of all sorts?

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    2. Lisa Hodgson

      Director

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Hi Robert,

      The Australian Federal Court decision was to allow the BRCA1 patent to continue. The US High Court did not allow/invalidated the patent. The Australian decision is now under appeal with the US decision providing hope that common sense will prevail.

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    3. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to David Oakenfull

      David,
      Why do you feel an urge to make us aware of fringe protest literature when there is a far deeper and more interesting fabric of good scientific literature?

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    4. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Geoffrey why do you nit pick about silly points?

      What makes you the judge of what is a 'far deeper and more interesting 'fabric' ???? of good scientific literature?

      Have you any publications in this scientific literature Geoffrey?

      Tell us your qualifications for your certainty that you are the best judge of scientific literature?

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    5. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Lisa Hodgson

      Lisa, thanks for this information.

      To save me using wiki and thus incurring disgust for my mental weakness, do these judgments apply to all patents about the nature of the human genome?

      I don't mind people profiting from studying my DNA provided I get a royalty for every time someone profits from it!

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    6. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Julie Thomas

      Julie, Yes I do, but I'm not going to list them every time people want to have a dig at me.

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    7. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Geoffrey I want an explanation of how come you know better than I do what is the best scientific literature.

      What is it about you? Your IQ? Your age? What?

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    8. Lisa Hodgson

      Director

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Hi Robert,

      No both judgements are on the BRCA genes though the precedent if upheld in Australia has implications for other gene patents. The US court rightly ruled that the genes were a 'product of nature' so I think (IMO) further attempts to patent genes in the US seems unlikely.

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    9. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Lisa Hodgson

      Hmm.

      Gold is a product of nature, but I think I could get a patent for extracting it from seawater using suitable bacteria. In other words, the patent could be on the method / technique of discovering / refining / using (any) product of nature.

      Geoffrey, perhaps you could bring your expertise to bear? But only geochemistry stuff, please!

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  23. Rex Gibbs

    Engineer/Director

    I have entered the Conversation and been taken to task and almost harangued for daring to suggest the use of the term 'denier', with all of its connotations about the holocaust, is counterproductive when engaging with people who do not accept anthropogenic global warming. Similarly those who rant about the climate skeptics being anti science are wasting their time. Insulting the person you are seeking to communicate with does not help any argument. I accept global warming and believe the Gates foundation…

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  24. Lisa Hodgson

    Director

    Of course objections to GMOs are not just about the science. There are social concerns e.g. Indian farmers' suicide rates due to failures of BT cotton crops and massive debts induced by disallowing seed saving. There are environmental concerns such as poisoning our soil and water with herbicides(roundup) that until recently were touted as harmless and biodegradable. There are also ethical problems with corporations owning seed patents therefore ultimately food.

    Further, science is not the god…

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    1. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Lisa Hodgson

      Lisa,
      Can you not accept that free market systems more or less operate, that nobody is ramming any particular food down your throat, that you have choice?
      If you are unwilling to research and choose which foods you like, then I suggest that your thoughts are a bit overwhelmed by the need to protest ... something.
      But that has nothing to do with good science.

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    2. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Lisa Hodgson

      No Lisa,
      It was not relevant enough to need a comment.

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  25. Julia Humphries

    Medical Scientist

    Specifically in relation to Golden Rice, could we not just develop harvesting and storage methods for green (unripe) rice, and adapt the biosynthetic pathway that already exists in this plant for compounds on the same pathway as beta-carotene to achieve higher pro-vitamin A content? Not easy but not impossible either.

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    1. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Julia Humphries

      Given that the MAJOR problem with foods around the world is storage and protection of good foods from animal and insect vermin and spoilage, the development of easily transported and assembled silos (using galvanised iron from Australia's moribund manufacturing centres) might be a quicker, easier and cheaper way of meeting requirements.

      Perhaps a GMO crop combining rice and genes from iron-secreting bacteria - you eat the rice, and excrete steel pellets...

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    2. Guy Dixon

      Founder, Inventor, CEO at N.I.N.A Pty Ltd

      In reply to Julia Humphries

      Hi Julia,

      Golden rice is promoted as a Vitamin A rich rice which if used int eh 3rd world will alleviate Vitamin A deficiency. The best way to alleviate Vitamin A deficiency is to increase the amount of carrots, paprika, peppers and leafy green vegetable in the diet. These vegetables are common in rice growing areas, most of the observed Vitamin A deficiency is observed in sub-Saharan Africa where they are developing a Vitamin A rich banana - the primary reason for poor nutrition in these areas…

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    3. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Guy Dixon

      Guy, don't agree about the greens. The best way might be to pop a pill or have an injection of to eat GM foods with extra vitamin A group. Why do you assert that eating greens is the best way? Proof? It might be too expensive in some places with subsistence agriculture.

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    4. Guy Dixon

      Founder, Inventor, CEO at N.I.N.A Pty Ltd

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Hi Geoffrey - Look up foods rich in Vitamin A - Liver tops the list, followed by red foods such as red pepper, chilies etc - Vitamin A is found in beta carotene, carotene and caratenoids and are typically in the pigment in a wide variety of plants (carrots being the obvious example).

      Vitamin A deficiency is what Golden rice is being promoted to alleviate. When we look at where Vitamin A deficiency occurs in a significant number of cases we see that Sub Saharan Africa stands out, Source: WHO…

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  26. Paul Cm

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    How exactly can one communicate the science, or even evaluate the pros and cons of Golden Rice, if the necessary research cannot be carried out?

    Greenpeace wittingly destroyed experiments that were designed as part of the scientific method. The results of this research was intended to deliver scientifically valid information. The scientists speaking out against Greenpeace were prompted not by Greenpeace's opinion on GR, nor their opposition to it's commercial use either. What made scientists in…

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    1. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Paul Cm

      Add the hypocrisy of having the word "peace" in your name and then indulging in violent behaviour.

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    2. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Paul Cm

      I don't think the destruction of the crop had anything to do with the science. It has to do with highlighting the collaboration between government and big unethical corporations like Monsanto.

      If you want to label anyone anti-science perhaps strong candidates would be Exxon Mobil, the Heartland Foundation and Monsanto itself who seeks to suppress independent research into the effects of its GMO crops on health and the environment.

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  27. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

    Boss

    The lead author noted "4.Explore, understand and accept that science doesn’t know everything. Take your time if this is difficult, but try to accept this broadly, and come to terms with it deeply. There are complexities inherent in human interactions that invoking “science” doesn’t magically nullify. This is not some vague, post-modernist, anti-science position: it’s just true. If it weren’t, then problems such as this golden rice brawl would not occur."
    Can you imagine doing this to your medico or dentist?
    Walk into the surgery and say "Before you do anything, I want you to know that science does not know everything. etc."
    The doctor would look at you blankly and might even reach for a mental certification form.
    ...........................
    Unless you are an experienced scientist, don't even think of trying to interpret and communicate how science progresses.

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  28. Sue Ieraci

    Public hospital clinician

    Thanks for an interesting article.

    I know you are restricted by a word limit, but I see more to this than pro- or anti-science. There are a multitude of motivations for either promoting something that goes against clear evidence, or denying something in the face of evidence.

    Certainly ''science'' (the body of existing knowledge) doesn't cover everything. There are, however, many things that are directly measurable and observable that are no longer open to debate. Examples might include the…

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    1. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      An excellent analysis Sue and I agree with you but I don't think the Greenpeace action or the Philippines protests referred to in the article were in any way at all motivated by an anti science sentiment.

      There is much, much more to the GM debate than just the science and their are various strands of scientific inquiry that are at play here some not easily resolved. The long term health consequences of ingesting GMOs may not be firmly established yet and the same with the environmental and economic consequences of GMO crops.

      Surely if these aspects of the science have not been resolved it should be incumbent on governments to insist on proper, independent and transparent research to ascertain and assess what risks these crops might pose.

      Then there is the unethical behavior of Monsanto and other biotech corporations that has nothing to do with the science but everything to do with the opposition against them.

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  29. Fred Moore

    Builder

    You know its funny, after they drop the Sarin gas on the people of this forum, they will continue arguing their same blinkered, irrelevant points till their last gasp and spasm.

    I mean you either laugh or cry- right?

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  30. Errol Hunt

    rocket surgeon

    Nice piece, thanks.

    To paraphrase someone clever: you can't use a *rational* argument to persuade someone from a position at which they have arrived *emotionally*.

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  31. Jarrod Chestney-Law

    logged in via Facebook

    "it does not necessarily mean they oppose science. "

    No, it usually means they have a flawed understanding of science. Any further discussion is pointless. They will argue that something is just a "theory", i.e evolution.

    "Some people have very good reasons to be suspicious of scientists and science."

    Yet somehow they still take advantage of the science that they like and which doesn't sit badly with their ideology.

    "Explore, understand and accept that science doesn’t know everything."

    I know that, everyone I know of who knows anything about science knows that. The only ones I ever see claiming it does are those who stomp on rice fields or push for legislation to change science books, holding it up as a strawman whenever science revises its understanding. You know what science does know though? A lot more than people running on pure ideology and emotion.

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  32. MADGE Australia Inc

    logged in via Twitter

    What this article fails to notice is that lots of people raising issues with GM are...........SCIENTISTS.

    The biotech/GM industry smears them because, of course, all of them are rubbish at science. Including Dr Arpad Pustzai (biochemist and nutritionist) who won a tender to test GM potatoes. He thought they'd be fine and that the Rowett Research Institute where he worked would have a nice series of experiments showing how safe GM was. Except that the experiments showed that rats fed the GM potatoes…

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    1. Brett Forbes

      Technology Developer

      In reply to MADGE Australia Inc

      Nice work Madge,

      I tried to raise the unintended consequences argument, and the issues with the current experimental regime, yet got soundly trashed.

      I'm glad you have the evidence to back it up, well done

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    2. Richard Roush

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

      In reply to MADGE Australia Inc

      Dear MADGE

      Mae Wan Ho has odd ideas even about Darwinian evolution.
      Huber is not supported by his colleagues http://www.apsnet.org/members/outreach/ppb/positionstatements/Pages/FebruaryLetter.aspx

      "Contrary to reports circulated by outlets such as the New York Times to New Scientist, the Aug. 9 attack of a genetically modified rice field in the Philippines was not carried out by 400 angry farmers, but rather a group of 50 anti-GMO activists."
      see http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/programs/conservation-and-development/the-real-story-of-the-anti-gmo-activists-attack-in-philippines

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  33. Guy Cox

    logged in via email @guycox.com

    What is important here is to keep in mind a sense of history. Maybe golden rice is being launched out of pure altruism, but that is far from the historical perspective of GM crops. We have seen 'Round-up ready' crops which allow farmers to wipe out non-crop plants with herbicide. (And rapidly spread herbicide resistance). We have seen 'terminating' GM seeds which mean that poor farmers cannot save some seed for their next crop, but must pay the multinational's price year after year. We have…

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to Guy Cox

      Are there only rapscallious companies in this field. Monsanto can't be the only company selling GM stuff - can it?

      Surely there are options.

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    2. Guy Cox

      logged in via email @guycox.com

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      I did not mention any companies. I just mentioned what to me seemed abusive uses of GM crops. The point is that even if the companies perpetrating these abuses are in a minority (and I'm not sure about that) they are still enough to give GM crops a bad name. This makes it very difficult for a company, however ethical, to get a fair look-in. As I said, it's not about science, it's about history. The general public judges GM crops by past experience, not hopeful scientific claims.

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    3. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to Guy Cox

      I wasn't having a go, just musing that the issue negative opinions of GM seem to revolve around one company - Monsanto.

      A case of one bad apple!!!!

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    4. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Monsanto dominates the market and is probably the worst offender but there are others. DuPont is one and it is no angel either.

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  34. David Tribe

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

    I am pleased to see Rod Lambert' reaction to our recent Conversation article, and totally agree that most of the so called debate on GM crops is about values and is not a scientific argument. Whether you call this unscientific, anti-scientific or another label I don't particularly care, but the set of behaviours shared by the science distorting anti-mainstream medicine and anti-main stream genetics lobby groups is defined by the examples in our article .
    As it happens, I am rather a fan of Dan…

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    1. Guy Dixon

      Founder, Inventor, CEO at N.I.N.A Pty Ltd

      In reply to David Tribe

      Hi David,
      I am not opposed to GM foods and I am a passionate believer in the development of drought and pest resistance strains. When it comes to addressing dietary deficiencies and using this as the prime motive for the development and spread of Golden Rice I make the following observations supported in my comments above. The best way to treat Vitamin A deficiency is to increase the quantity of vegetables (red peppers, chilli, carrots and if available liver) in the diet. Most endemic dietary deficiencies…

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    2. Guy Cox

      logged in via email @guycox.com

      In reply to David Tribe

      David, you just don't seem to understand that it's not about science (see my previous posts).

      Here's an analogy that I didn't want to use, but I think I must to get my point across. Let's say that a serial rapist insists that he is now reformed, and is a really good music teacher, would you let him be alone with your daughter?

      The bad reputation GM crops have has been earned, not invented. Science alone cannot get rid of a bad reputation.

      I have not researched the science behind golden rice, but prima facie I don't get it. In my experience people in countries where rice is a staple diet also eat chillies, capsicums and tomatoes, all of which are full of carotene. Can you give examples of who this crop will benefit? (Not, as I say, that this will solve the problem but at least it may identify whether there really is a problem to solve.)

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  35. Philip Dowling

    IT teacher

    It concerns me that basic science is not properly taught in high schools. Has anybody here read a science textbook recently?
    50% politically correct nonsense and 50% science. The notion of scientific method is given lip service to but not emphasized.
    It is curious that GMO foods are given more scrutiny than the morning after pill.
    It is equally curious that the chemical mechanics of digestion are so poorly misunderstood, but the effects of botox aren't.
    It is curious that while the beneficial…

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    1. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Philip Dowling

      Philip,

      A more widespread issue about basic science is diet.

      Everyday someone will come up for a new wonder diet to explain and cure the Western world's obesity epidemic.

      Some scientific laws:

      - Matter cannot be created nor destroyed (except in nuclear reactions). Matter is measured in kilograms or grams or ounces or pounds or tonnes etc.

      - Energy cannot be created nor destroyed (except in nuclear reactions). Energy is measured in calories or joules etc.

      A couple of statements…

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  36. James Hill

    Industrial Designer

    To change anti-science activists' minds go to the new science of "complexity" ?
    The new science of complexity which argues that everything is connected, politics, the environment war, hunger, injustice, science.
    Even anti-science activists and science.
    What? a scientific solution?
    How deeply disappointing for those resorting to mindless violence to assuage their imagined relevance deprivation problems.
    They are not powerless and irrelevant and need not resort to violence as a solution, they just need to modify their position in the overall scheme of things.
    And use science to do it, please, not violence, and certainly not while claiming the word peace in their name.

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  37. Ian Rudd

    Retired accountant

    While Rod Lamberts may abhor the actions of those that destroyed the CSIRO's GMO crop trial I applaud them. Let's face it this is not an argument only about the science involved but more than anything it's about the completely obscene way in which Monsanto goes about its business of corrupting governments, demonizing independent scientists opposed to GMOs and running rough shod over farmers who they accuse of using their patented seed illegitimately.

    Monsanto's GMOs have been responsible for devastating the lives of subsistence farmers in India and Mexico.

    Mansanto fights tooth and nail to prevent labels reflecting the fact that products contain GM modified ingredients. Why?

    I for one would not willingly buy a Monsanto GMO product even if the scientific evidence proved beyond doubt it was safe to eat, which it certainly does not.

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    1. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      How does it make sense to destroy CSIRO GMO test beds to protest about Monsanto's alleged business practices?

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    2. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      "Monsanto's GMOs have been responsible for devastating the lives of subsistence farmers in India and Mexico."

      Hmm, your evidence presented here seems compelling... oh wait.

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    3. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      CSIRO are in bed with Monsanto as is the WA Ag Dept.

      Monsanto's business practices are not "alleged" they are a fact.

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    4. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Luke Weston

      In India farmers trapped in the GMO cycle are committing suicide as they can't make enough to subsist. Non GMO seeds are no longer available in many cases and they are prohibited from planting seeds saved from their GMO crop.

      In Mexico GMO maize/traditional variety cross pollination has lead to contamination of these traditional varieties.

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    5. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Ian, from interest, do you have any references to support either of these allegations?

      I would think the ineptitude of India in doing anything whatsoever to address poverty might well cause farmers to commit suicide. Do they leave suicide notes apportioning the blame?

      I would agree that cross pollination of different sorts of maizes might occur, but so what?

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    6. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Incidentally, all over the world there is a decline in the number of bees, attributed to a mite that sucks their blood. Fortunately, Australia is so far free of the damned things. There are real worries about the effects of loss of bees on pollination.

      Anyway, a reasonable question would be whether the Monsanto way of combining insecticides, herbicides and GMO plants might be involved. I stress this is NOT a claim by me, just a question.

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    7. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      I just googled Monsanto and bees.

      The question is whether Monsanto practices are causing bee deaths, or exacerbating the problem of the mites.

      Given that we are free of the mite, but have Monsanto, we should be able to answer that question by surveying bee hives within a couple of kms of GM farms and comparing with others outside the GM zones.

      Anyone doing this?

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    8. Suzy Gneist

      Multiple: self-employed, employed, student, mother, volunteer, Free-flyer

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      The problem in South America is that it is the area of origin for maize and therefore contains the highest genetic diversity, the best range of the species. Contamination via GMO and wind pollination can endanger the seed stocks - this will be an issue when we realise that a particular strain of maize will be invaluable or essential in the future to suit a particular climate or use (medicinal, agricultural, commercial...)
      "So what?" proves the lack of understanding of the uncertainties and far-reaching consequences of a seemingly simple action like planting GMO maize in maize's heartland.

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    9. Suzy Gneist

      Multiple: self-employed, employed, student, mother, volunteer, Free-flyer

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Many Indian farmers have drunk RoundUpReady to kill themselves when they become overwhelmed by mounting cost of annual seed and herbicide on top of crop failures. Dr Vandana Shiva has represented their issues frequently.

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    10. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy, check Emilie's link posted an hour or so ago - interesting account of the shambles in Punjab regarding farming livelihoods.

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    11. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy, "so what" was simply a question. Could have been "and?"

      Asking a question does not indicate anything except curiosity.

      "Mongrelisation" of maize or any organism may cause problems - one of the reasons for keeping collections of seeds (as is done somewhere, I have forgotten where).

      The premise of your statement ("Contamination") is that cross pollination is necessarily bad. I remain unconvinced.

      What do you think of my post about bees and seeing whether Monsanto's products are involved in their decline?

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    12. Edwina Laginestra
      Edwina Laginestra is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Jack of all trades

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      oh..oh...I know an answer to a question! The really well known seedbank is in Svalbard, Norway, built into a mountain. We also have one in Victoria for native seeds I believe.

      ...and BTW Robert, thank you for your explanation yesterday. I had to read it slowly (and twice) but I think I understood (did bring back vague memories of chemistry). Good example of communication of science. ;)

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    13. Suzy Gneist

      Multiple: self-employed, employed, student, mother, volunteer, Free-flyer

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      If you search google scholar for neonicotinoids + bees, you'll find a list of papers showing effects on colony health. Monsanto, bayer and syngenta are all producers of these. Maybe you should initiate the research you have in mind?

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    14. Suzy Gneist

      Multiple: self-employed, employed, student, mother, volunteer, Free-flyer

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Re: cross pollination, there is a difference of scale between natural cross pollination and selection and planting thousands of hectares with gm crops and distributing pollen over vast areas. When scaling up natural processes it would be wise to be cautious since in other areas, scaling up processes to industrial size has caused extinctions, proliferation of disease and other unintended consequences which impact biodiversity and the availability of a particular food source.
      I remain unconvinced…

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    15. Suzy Gneist

      Multiple: self-employed, employed, student, mother, volunteer, Free-flyer

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Not sure which link you are referring to - its a pretty long thread and my internet access is, well, rural...

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    16. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy, thanks for this pointer. I have no doubt that insecticides cause problems if misused.

      What I am questioning is whether GM crops that have insecticides "built in" cause problems to bees that come in contact with them. Given that bees roam (only) a couple of km away from the hive, then there might be differences between hives close to a GM crop and those further away.

      In other countries, I think it is probably impossible now to know whether the decline in hives is due to mites or insecticides or a combination.

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    17. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Emilie posted a link to an Indian publication about problems with Punjabi agriculture.

      I posted a link that Edwina chased about an Australian researcher's scary discussion of the way any problems with GM might take many years to surface, and many years to fix, if possible.

      MODERATOR: The software used for these discussions is very clumsy for extended discussions with many branches. Much better stuff available.

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    18. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      I don't disagree that we need to be very careful.

      Funnily enough, one of the "crimes" of Monsanto is chasing neighbouring farmers whose crops have become infiltrated by GM and making them give them up. In other words, it is in Monsanto's commercial interests to minimise cross pollination.

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    19. Suzy Gneist

      Multiple: self-employed, employed, student, mother, volunteer, Free-flyer

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Yes, bee colony declines are complex problems due to unhealthy, limited diets, density, disease, environmental toxins, etc. the fact that Bt is within the dna of pollen and plant tissue cells, suggests exposure when bees collect and take this pollen back to the colony for food. Do or initiate the research and test your hypothesis ;)

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    20. Suzy Gneist

      Multiple: self-employed, employed, student, mother, volunteer, Free-flyer

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      I think the correct statement is: insecticides can cause problems when they are used - it isn't just misuse that has unintended consequences, all use has.

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    21. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy, I might do that if I can get a grant...

      I have been working with a friend building bee boxes and starting hives - initially prompted by trying to rescue a hive in my neighbour's wall. They are amazing creatures - well worth the time studying their habits.

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    22. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to John Troughton

      John, very interested - lots of topics for kids, I think.

      Woodwork - making bee boxes
      Crystallography - why combs are hexagonal
      Physics - ways of extracting honey
      Cooking - use of honey
      Chemistry - natural sugars
      Evolution - insects and plants
      Intelligence - insects, communication, cooperation
      ...

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    23. John Troughton

      ANU Alumni

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Robert, you got it. Amazing engaging and in depth capability. Someone should convert it into reality.

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    24. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Very true!

      I posted somewhere in this very long discussion the idea that secure food storage in vermin proof silos is critical. Years ago as a student vacation job I worked on wheat bins where the wheat was sprayed with Malathion (an organo-phosphate, I think). Wading through the wheat, I would come out with my legs bright red! Two healthy daughters, though.

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    25. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to John Troughton

      MODERATOR

      This discussion is getting too long. Can we start a new discussion about Education - Bees? The software used for this is very poor compared to others I have used. There ought to be some branching mechanism so you can easily move up and down following a thread. There ought to be some way of finding people. and including / excluding contributors.

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    26. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Robert,

      Yes it is a bit ironic the way some discussions are cut off even before we receive the advice from TC that they are in a new table of articles and ones like this which have covered almost all possible avenues are allowed to stay there for weeks.

      BTW, you can find people by clicking on a search button, available in Chrome under the three horizontal bars in the top right hand corner of the page. This may not be exactly what you menat, but hope perhaps it helps. John Nicol

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    27. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      On the India suicide thing. You can perhaps google it to check on that debate.

      On the cross-contamination thing, I can't recall the specific details of the problem but they will be available on the internet. Suffice to say that the affected peasants are not overjoyed about it and why should they not have the right to not have to put up with contaminated maize?

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    28. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Ian, supposedly in Australia there is a major problem with suicide by farmers in despair at loss of crops / livelihood during drought.

      There seems to be an issue with Monsanto using heavy-handed methods with farmers who accidentally end up with contamination of crops with Monsanto's products. Emilie posted a link about Monsanto which suggests they have some special legislative protection against damages claims - like the nuclear energy industry!

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    29. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      "Ian, supposedly in Australia there is a major problem with suicide by farmers in despair at loss of crops / livelihood during drought."

      I don't know what I am supposed to reply to this observation except to say that nothing is black and white and the reasons for farmer suicides in India may not just be the result of Monsanto's role in pushing GMOs into their communities.

      It would be interesting to see if there was a study done comparing suicides in communities that have had GMO's pushed on them and like communities that have not if such a community could be found. But who would fund such a study if one were possible - not Monsanto I'm sure?

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  38. Burton J. Smith

    animal behavorist (retired)

    I would suggest that the author of the article read up on groups, how they are formed, the paradigms they promote and the people they attract. Green Peace is an activist group and they firmly believe certain things, that the leaders espouse. They, in a very real sense, are a religion. They believe because they believe their compatriots and/or leaders believe and the more they are persecuted for their belief the greater their conviction of righteousness. Those who don’t believe are either guided by the Devil, ignorant, or out to get them and therefore ignored. Locking them up does little good, as they can still run their organizations from inside, as has been demonstrated by numerous examples (from crime bosses to religious zealots). The only thing that appears to work is to totally confiscate their funds, equipment and facilities – but that’s difficult to accomplish in developed countries.

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    1. Laurie Willberg

      Journalist

      In reply to Burton J. Smith

      Sounds like you're describing adherents to Scientism.
      "confiscate their funds, equipment and facilities". That would work in a fascist dictatorship.

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    2. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Burton J. Smith

      I would suggest that Greenpeace supporters are anything but religious in their outlook. They are driven by certain values that seek to prevent the rapid degrading of civilization, to protect biodiversity and to support powerless people confronted by rapacious governments and corporations bent only on extracting ever more profit for themselves regardless of the consequences to others now and in the future.

      In general they trust the independent scientists and are not sucked in by the deliberate campaigns mounted by the vested interests (eg tobacco industry, fossil fuel industry and Monsanto) to undermine the scientific evidence supporting evidence based conclusions.

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  39. Hinton John Lowe

    educationist

    It's not only being naive about human nature - it's being unscientific. Science has yielded the best understandings of human beings in history (pace Aristotle, Aquinas et al.!)- as in various branches of psychology, linguistics, sociology. Much is now known about human development and functioning, including communication; and the interests and values which strongly determine attitudes; so choice and action. These products of science are highly relevant to questions about how and why people learn…

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    1. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Emilie Choukry

      Hi Emilie, I'm still here - talking to myself!

      Unfortunately, it confirms my comment about Indian efforts to attack poverty!

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    2. Emilie Choukry

      artist

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Sorry it only came into my email box a short time ago...so I posted it as I felt it touched on so many important issues.

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  40. Guy Dixon

    Founder, Inventor, CEO at N.I.N.A Pty Ltd

    Wow this conversation has really degenerated quickly - I suggest both sides of the polemic read Daniel Kahneman (Nobel Prize Winner) Thinking, Fast and Slow and Risk "The Science and Politics of Fear" by Dan Gardner (an easier read, bit less scientific!).

    My simple conclusion to the questions;
    Is Golden Rice (GMO) the best way to treat Vitamin A deficiency - A: No, better to increase vegetable consumption with rice, this is made possible in acute VAD countries by reduced warfare, economic support…

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    1. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Guy Dixon

      Guy Dixon

      Just a couple of comments.

      On your first point, I believe that the alternatives you suggest for delivering the lifesaving Vit A to East Africans has been thoroughly considered and examined and for many in that population, the provision of the GM bananas was determined to be the best option.

      Secondly, the provision of a licence, free otr otherwise for growing GM crops does not affect the distribution of other crops grown in the countries concerned. Exports of their currently grown…

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    2. Laurie Willberg

      Journalist

      In reply to John Nicol

      "Thoroughly considered" by who? This is nothing more than a false choice fallacy. Sweet potatoes, kale, carrots, squash and spinach all contain high levels of vitamin A precursor beta carotene. Crop diversity is the key, not making better bananas.
      If GM peddlers were so committed to humanitarianism they'd forego their license fees.

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    3. Guy Dixon

      Founder, Inventor, CEO at N.I.N.A Pty Ltd

      In reply to John Nicol

      Hi John, Thanks for your comment. Dietary deficiencies of a variety have types have been treated by introducing foods rich in the deficient component and or education. The attributes of East Africa where there are acute cases are poverty, poor education, recently drought and war (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Northern Kenya, the Horn of Africa), Vitamin A deficiency is malnutrition! Where there is peace and stability there can be successful and diverse agriculture even in the event of droughts as foods…

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    4. John Troughton

      ANU Alumni

      In reply to Guy Dixon

      Guy. Thanks. The double whammy. Collect and keep free water clean, multiple uses. Even fertilise with free CO2. Add selective plants. Nutritious meal.

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    5. John Troughton

      ANU Alumni

      In reply to John Troughton

      No John, triple whammy, free energy, free water, free CO2. Unfortunately not free healthy nutritious food for all.

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    6. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Guy Dixon

      Guy,

      Do you have a pointer to more information about your invention?

      I work in area of asset management of large civil infrastructure including water, drainage, sewerage, roads. Talking to people about road management in Africa.

      Have you talked to the NBN about burying pipes and cables?

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    7. Guy Dixon

      Founder, Inventor, CEO at N.I.N.A Pty Ltd

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Hi Robert,

      You can see my invention at our website:

      www.ninaaccesspathway.com

      Contact details are there , last week we were in the Finals of the Engineering Excellence Awards! Beaten by the CSIRO Square Kilometer Array in the innovation and invention category! The pathway does many good things but most importantly it is economic and surprisingly simple, for its potential impact water independent cities, cheaper distribution for alternate power, lower energy losses in the distribution system. lower energy requirements for moving water, allows urban soils to build up in quality and quantity, allows for isolation of toxic run-offs into urban water systems (most cities are build around important water ways, harbours, reduces flooding - does the lot!!
      Hey John, In Australia the water harvested from the urban footprint could turn all urban parks into rainforests, thats a lot of herb gardens so some free healthy nutritious food could be on the table, think irrigated garden cities!

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    8. Guy Dixon

      Founder, Inventor, CEO at N.I.N.A Pty Ltd

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Re NBN I have spoke to them they think it is interesting and will consider when we have a trial. The NBN is a whole other area where I have a lot of expertise used to manage the commercial network relationship between Optus and Telstra and headed up telecommunications research for a large investment bank. NBN believe that they are a "wholesale" monopoly under the existing legislation (it will all change) this presumption is based on the assumption that no other party could afford to build a ubiquitous…

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    9. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Guy Dixon

      Have you looked at a modular pathway (as distinct from kerb and gutter)?

      I think it would be a lot easier to sell a modular pathway. Trouble is that Councils are very fixated on public liability. This is why they don't use pavers more (trip hazards) and why they put bitumen all over the place (trip hazards again). So you will see nice brick paved areas, that are dug up, the bricks are dumped, and the holes roughly filled in, then patched with a great splodge of bitumen. In due course, to be jackhammered up again, the bricks replaced with suitable almost but not quite the same bricks, and so on and on and on.

      Needs a systematic approach - combination of equipment, materials, skilled workers...

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    10. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Guy Dixon

      Guy Dixon.

      Hi,

      Again,thanks for your comment. I have just been studying your two potentential products at your site - very impressive.

      I guess the biggest difference, apart from the "strategic" separation of the service ducts is that the depth of trenching is reduced and the risk of being cut up by careless ploughing up of the footpath etc as happens not infrequently at present is minimal to non existent, both of which lead to considerable reduction in costs to the various local government…

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    11. Guy Dixon

      Founder, Inventor, CEO at N.I.N.A Pty Ltd

      In reply to John Nicol

      Hi John, Thanks for your kind words! As regards the Sahara, the NINA Access Pathway is essentially designed to make cities efficient and to reduce their demand for water beyond the urban footprint.

      Areas that would benefit include cities like Cairo which while sitting on the Nile stress this system by requiring water from the dams and by the contamination loading of run-off. By way of example the City of London occupies 1.9 billion square meters on either side of the Thames River, 1.1 billion…

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  41. Suzy Gneist

    Multiple: self-employed, employed, student, mother, volunteer, Free-flyer

    The comments here seem to prove the point of the article. If 'non-scientists' admit to ethical or other (threatening biodiversity, profiteering, non-disclosure) qualms about the effects of applying GMO science or question whether the solution is appropriate to the problem, some 'scientists' go on the attack, followed by a counter-attack, etc...
    This antagonistic approach leaves out the option that both parties have a point and both are equally valid in their own sphere. Some value ethics or holistic results over means to an end to solve one specific problem with one specific solution. All humans are both rational and non-rational - solutions need to synthesise from both spheres and be culture and location specific, there's no blanket answer to any question.

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    1. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      I am not a scientist but I understand that to qualify as a proper scientific study or investigation the work has to be transparent and subject to peer review and criticism. As far as I can gather the "science" that Monsanto and other biotech companies ostensibly rely on to present its case does not comply with these basics.

      So is it science?

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    2. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      "Peer review" means that someone with appropriate experience, knowledge and skills checks work done against various criteria.

      Transparency means that methodologies and results are displayed. There are all sorts of proprietary knowledge kept secret.

      For a $50 billion dollar business to not check the work of its scientists, and to publish its valuable intellectual property would be lunacy.

      As an accountant, you need to understand and use double entry accounting. To publish your clients' private data could be very career threatening.

      Science involves a whole lot of things, including commitment to objective facts. If Monsanto or anyone else plays around with objective facts by hiding or distorting them this is propaganda, not science.

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    3. Edwina Laginestra
      Edwina Laginestra is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Jack of all trades

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      I'd never delved into this before (how remiss) but I tell my students that science is a system of gaining knowledge regarding the world around us and we use scientific method to reduce bias and increase reproducibility. The steps in the standard scientific method include:Define question; Gather data using defined method; Form a testable hypothesis; Test idea against EVIDENCE (observe, measure, experiment); Data analysis & interpretation, then iteration; finally publication and peer review. So perhaps, like consultant reports are called gray literature, science that cannot be reviewed independently should be gray science (except you can often get your hands on gray literature).

      And Ian, not sure if Peter is a lawyer but he certainly suffers the same hubris as any other arrogant prat.

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    4. Suzy Gneist

      Multiple: self-employed, employed, student, mother, volunteer, Free-flyer

      In reply to Edwina Laginestra

      The scientific approach is a good way to explore solutions, yet no one solution can or should be claimed as the only or right one since there is always more to learn and history has many examples of unintended and negative consequences of scientific progress. It's like medication which has intended and unintended effects, also called 'side' effects and each patient has to determine if the benefits outweigh the negatives for them personally - the response may differ between individuals as scientific solutions may be appropriate or not in different situations.

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    5. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy,

      Try replacing "scientific" with "rational" and "scientific solutions may be appropriate" with "irrational solutions may be appropriate".

      Try "adding numbers with arithmetic" versus "adding numbers with random processes".

      As Keating once said, the alternative to "economic rationalism" is "economic irrationalism".

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    6. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Emilie Choukry

      Thanks Emilie.

      Amazing stuff. Sounds like Monsanto, like the nuclear energy business, was given special legislative protection against damages claims.

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    7. Edwina Laginestra
      Edwina Laginestra is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Jack of all trades

      In reply to Emilie Choukry

      Hi Emilie
      that is such a weird story - here are Scientific American sharing science then supporting a stance on keeping info out of public domain as consumer choice could affect market economy. And the most worrying bit is "how the likes of Monsanto, Syngenta and Pioneer Hi-Bred have even threatened litigation for using their GM seeds in unauthorized studies, essentially chilling independent researchers, making industry-sponsored research oftentimes the only available information on a product's…

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    8. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      I did not mean the process of engineering the GMO should be transparent - of course not, but the scientific investigations into the health and environmental effects of the use of the product should be made transparent and open to competent, independent review.

      Does that present a problem?

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    9. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      The problem with Keating's economic rationalism was that it is irrational. At least that's my view and I'm sticking to it.

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    10. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Not for nothing did Monsanto get the prestigious Dirty Mermaid Award at the COP15 summit in Copenhagen. The presentation is on YouTube I should think if you are interested.

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    11. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Hi Ian,

      "Transparency" in science means nothing is hidden - context, methodology, data, processing of data, results, interpretation of results are all clearly documented. The problem is that for whatever reason there is a lot of controversy about GMO. I think that Monsanto must control (to a certain degree) who does research into its products to protect itself.

      As an example, Erik posted a review of the research of someone who claims that a particular strain of rats (that are very susceptible…

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    12. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      The problem with GMOs is that people don't just drop dead when they consume it. Like smoking the effects are long term in humans (though not rats) so Monsanto can, in the absence of regulation, get away with selling its stuff to an unsuspecting or unconcerned market for a long time and use denial and undermining tactics just like the tobacco industry has done to extend the life of its product. Here is an hour long video that, if you have the time or inclination you can watch to give you some insight into what is going on with Monsanto.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPvkZv5MfRw

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    13. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Reminds me of the joke about the woman who was condemned to death for witchcraft. As she was led to the stake, she cursed the king. And sure enough, many years later, the king mysteriously died in his sleep.

      I will certainly watch the video, thanks.

      Did you read my post on diet theories? The problem with any food is that people don't just lose weight / attract lovers / live longer / have tighter skin / etc - there is simply NO double blind test to prove any of it.

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    14. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      I missed your post on diet theories but I am as skeptical as you are of their veracity.

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    15. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      An interesting video..

      Jeffrey M Smith introduces himself as the Founder and Director of an organisation fighting GMO and Monsanto particularly. I assume he does not have a science degree.
      L. Ron Hubbard (a reasonable writer of science fiction) apparently deliberately decided to invent a new religion (Scientology) which incidentally made him very wealthy.
      Jeffrey makes a large number of statements which would take a lot of time to investigate. For example, in the first minute or so he baldly defines GMO as taking genes from viruses and bacteria and splicing them into food. I started to be very sceptical from that point on.
      Sorry, I think it is mainly scare mongering, and I will not be sending him any money.
      Mind you, I am still listening about the issues.

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    16. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Ian,

      Monsanto has a large number of employees world wide, in all sorts of environments. No doubt it keeps track of their health, as part of the USA's pathetic health system where medical benefits come from the employer.
      Thus they would have a database of more than 20,000 people and their medical histories.
      Its employees would be encouraged to eat GM foods - it would look a bit strange if they did not. Thus there should be a large well-documented database of people who eat more GM foods on average than a similar cohort in the general population.
      An epidemiological goldmine to see the effects of GMO, if any.

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    17. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Yes Smith does seem to be an evangelist for his cause but he nonetheless makes some very good points. I watched the video a long time ago but the quick look I had of it before I posted the link made me realize just why people should not trust Monsanto. The bit about the tomatoes near the beginning said a lot. Basically there is and has been an ongoing revolving door between Monsanto and the US FDA, the regulator. Guess where most of the regulators income comes from? I don't know but I'm pretty sure its not the FDA.

      Also whether the specific gene happens to be extracted from a virus or some other life form does not in itself make much difference to its potential to be harmful (at least on the surface).

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    18. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      I don't think people go out of their way to eat GM food although probably the majority of people don't care one way or the other. I doubt whether Monsanto employees would go out of their way to eat GM food either especially since the food itself is not manufactured by Monsanto.

      Farmers of edible GM crops such as tomatoes, if they are still grown, may provide the sort of database you allude to - or comparisons between populations in GM free countries and the others.

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    19. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Ian, Smith makes some good points (that is, questions / issues that are worth investigating) but his statements seem to be fuzzy.
      For example, he disputes that Roundup is inactivated by contact with soil. He claims the it passes from the foliage into roots and then into the soil, and in the soil it kills "good bacteria" and encourages "bad bacteria". That sounds like BS to me.
      He talks about how all sorts of animals die very rapidly after exposure to GMO. For example, animals allowed to graze on…

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  42. Hinton John Lowe

    educationist

    To Suzy Gneist: The oppositional dynamic of 'debate' may be one of the characteristics of communication in these and many other fields which will need to be analysed, contested, and either replaced or transformed. 'Conversations' which define, explore and assess issues facing humanity may then become generative, and yield answers and conclusions, and enough consensus or at least wide enough and well enough informed consent, to engage in benevolent and beneficent cooperative action. Prevailing metaphors…

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  43. Edwina Laginestra
    Edwina Laginestra is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Jack of all trades

    By gum this is a long conversation and certainly ranges beyond GM food (sorry Rod) but the whole "science wars", beliefs and debates is a big topic with interest to all us scientists. Anyhow, just in case anyone is up for more reading there is a piece recently posted on ABC The Drum. My favourite comment is from Peter the Lawyer, which obviously should address some scientific concerns (not). http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-26/boulos-climate-change-belief-is-a-question-of-trust/4982486
    And Robert thanks for link to Judy Carman - seems like a nice sensible person (I also did a lot of research in this area many years ago).

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    1. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Edwina Laginestra

      Do you think peter really is a lawyer? Whatever he may be I think that his side have seriously damaged any chances of a solution to climate change and that after all is what it is all about. The GMO controversy it seems to me is driven by the same sort of ideological mindset as motivates Peter the Lawyer to make his statements.

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  44. Richard Roush

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

    Thanks, Rod, for your comment on our article.

    I have to disagree on one point, and ask for more specifics on another.

    You argue that the quote from the Greenpeace activist, including "but I believe that not all science is equal" "suggests hers is patently not an anti-science position. But it is certainly an anti-GM one."

    I can't agree. As David and I argued, the very notion that you can "pick and choose which scientific-sounding claims to accept, depending on whether they are compatible…

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  45. Hinton John Lowe

    educationist

    Afterallissaidanddone - perhaps the only way to get the science to prevail will be from fear- that very rational and pragmatic response to danger- at least when it's real. And when it's not it's phobia. Fears amongst the punters of the catastrophes to come. And fear amongst the politicians & lawyers, the wealth elites and megacorporates that they serve: that they will be held to account for their antagonism to the science and their obstruction of remedies- whether from craven cupidity or powerlust…

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    1. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Hinton John Lowe

      Hinton John Lowe.

      Are we to believe therefore, that if it turns out that as many expect, and as many infra red spectroscopists have repeatedly, shown will be the case, that there is no significant effect of increased carbon dioxide on the temperature (as opposed to the pleasant warming supported in part by the present level, or evident even at much lower levels), then at least 97% of climate scientists and the many advocates and politicians who have been haranguing the population and its economic base for the last twenty years, should be jailed in stead.
      John Nicol

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    2. Hinton John Lowe

      educationist

      In reply to John Nicol

      Non sequitur. The culpability is not for getting it wrong. All of us would end up in jail if that were to be a ground for prosecution. It's for ignoring wilfully, or deliberately deceiving, or egregious negligence, proven beyond reasonable doubt to have led, or contributed substantially, to catastrophe. Or words to that effect.

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    3. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Hinton John Lowe

      Hinton Lowe,

      Hinton, I am not referring to getting it wrong, that is everybodies right and we all manage to do it one time or another in spades.

      What I am referring to is the complete and utter refusal by the IPCC and its adherents to look at the many scientific pieces of information which point directly to a much lesser climate sensitivity than they are prepared to admit. The evidence from Geologists concerning temperatures and related CO2 densities from the past, the solar features and…

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    4. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to John Nicol

      John,

      1. The "specific heat" of a substance is the amount of heat it takes to raise its temperature by a degree - measured in x energy units / mass.

      2. The specific heat of water is very very high relative to all other substances because of "hydrogen bonds" - the molecules (like little wire coat-hangers) lock together, and take lots of energy to make them move around (movement / kinetic energy = temperature)..

      You can easily google for the specific heats of air and water.

      Any heat going…

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    5. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      If you are into Intelligent Design and so on, consider the Hydrogen Bond.

      1. It makes water (H2O) liquid between 0 and 100 degrees. It is essential to all life on Earth, and is involved in all sorts of the chemical reactions part of life.

      2. The nearest compound to it, "rotten egg gas", Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S) is a gas anywhere in nature. It is extremely toxic to all oxygen-breathing life on Earth.

      3. As water turns from a liquid to a solid, the hydrogen bonds become settled to keep the…

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    6. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Just a brief comment Robert, The hydrogen bond does not make water liquid and gas at the temperatures as you suggest. The forces which determine a substances state are the "external" bonds between molecules. Sure the physical characteristics of the hydrogen bond to the oxygen will play a role, but essentially the bonding is more associated with "surface tension" type forces than the internal bonding.

      I think you may also have made a comment regarding the specific heat of water being high - this is because the molecule with its interesting angle between the H bonds has a large number of modes of vibration at ground level electron energies, each of which becomes exited to an energy level on average of kT where k is Boltzmann's constant. Thus there a many kTs to contribute to the internal specific heat. Other effects of course arise in the frozen and liquid states where inter molecular interactions also play a part. Lohn Nicol ,

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    7. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to John Nicol

      John, if you look at the Periodic table, you will see that from left to right elements have properties in a spectrum. Sodium (left) is a metal, Oxygen (right) is a gas.
      Similarly if you work from top to bottom, elements have properties in a spectrum. Oxygen (upper) is a gas, Sulphur (lower) is a solid easily melted and turned into a gas. Similar with Fluorine (gas), Bromine (liquid), Iodine (solid) at room temperature.
      The same spectrum applies to their compounds. Hydrogen Oxide (water) transforms…

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    8. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Robert, I am happy to accept what you are saying if you can point me to a diagram on the net - or you could draw one and put it on your web page - or write a formula demonstrating the reason for water to have a higher SH. I accept that it has a higher SH than most if not all subtances - I am not sure why and believed it was just as I said in my comment but I accept that I am wrong and that you have the correct explanation. I just can't picture it properly. Thanks.
      John Nicol

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    9. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to John Nicol

      John,
      This is a good discussion of specific heat
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specific_heat_capacity#Table_of_specific_heat_capacities
      It shows that liquid water has a specific heat about 4 times that of atmospheric gases.
      That is, a given mass of air heated from 20 to 25 degrees passing over water at 20 degrees, might be cooled to 21 degrees (4 degrees decrease) while the water might be heated to 21 degrees (1 degrees increase) assuming mixing of the water by wind, waves, currents and convection.
      That is, hot air passed over water will very soon lose its excess heat to the water, with the final temperature changes being relatively small and very difficult to measure.
      Repeat after me: Modelling is useless and unnecessary!.

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    10. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Robert, this is why The Conversation is such a good forum. Contributors like you provide the facts and logic to ensure others don't mislead, deliberately or otherwise. Thank you.

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    11. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Aw shucks, thanks.
      I confess, I love teaching science.
      Years ago, I was teaching 15 year olds about the transmission of sound / energy through air. They could not understand how molecules bumping against each other could make a wave to transmit energy.
      I took them all into the adjacent hallway, lined them up one behind the other, with me facing them at the front..
      I pushed the first kid, who fell against the next kid, and so on down the line.
      I announced "Now, I'm a vibrator".
      A voice from the back replied "Geez, a six foot dildo".

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    12. Edwina Laginestra
      Edwina Laginestra is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Jack of all trades

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      I agree Ian. This conversation is like a masterclass and I feel like I've had my brain stretched. One of the most interesting and challenging conversations I've joined but also one of the most civilised when it could be fraught (like many other "scientific" controversies) - ought to be nominated for the TC equivalent of Nobel prize. Thanks to my teachers - this grasshopper shall need to study it again later when I have more time.

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    13. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Edwina Laginestra

      Hi Edwina,

      I thought it might be interesting to look at The Hydrogen Economy.
      Hydrogen is a fluid, that can be piped around Australia easily in a pipe network, like electricity (which behaves like a fluid) that can be "piped" around Australia in a wire network.
      Hydrogen can be turned into electricity in two ways: 1 - burning like any fuel to produce water and heat to drive turbines to generate electricity, and 2 - burning in a fuel cell to produce water and electricity directly.
      Electricity…

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    14. Guy Dixon

      Founder, Inventor, CEO at N.I.N.A Pty Ltd

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Hi Robert and Edwina,
      I agree about the potential of hydrogen - but I make the following point and draw attention to why my invention (www.ninaaccesspathway.com) is so important as an enabling platform. The cost to build a standalone hydrogen distribution network by burying pipes under the footpath (the traditional technology platform) would approximate $50bn. To deploy the same network in the NINA Access Pathway would be less than $15bn. Our economic challenge as scientist, engineers, financiers…

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    15. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Guy Dixon

      Hii Guy,
      A problem with hydrogen is that it is absorbed by (some) metals and makes them brittle. Thus pipes need to be plastic or plastic lined.
      There is a worldwide shortage of copper, so in future there will be a push to replace copper piping for plumbing with plastic (already in place - my daughter's renovations used plastic internally - much easier as it is flexible and not needing heating) to reserve copper for electrical cabling.
      In Sydney, metal pipes were replaced by plastic as part of…

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    16. Guy Dixon

      Founder, Inventor, CEO at N.I.N.A Pty Ltd

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Hi Robert,

      Metal pipes are on their way out and most gas in the low pressure distribution system is plastic. This works well in the NINA Architecture and with modularity will become cheaper and faster. We include a modular pathway in our patent. This location has problems in that it sits over the legacy networks of gas, water, some power and some communications. The reason for integrating with the curb and gutter is a) best place for water management and b) its is largely free of subsurface legacy utilities this means that it can be retrofitted to existing areas and constitute a general upgrade to smart community status - water, power/energy, communications, lighting and control systems integrated and channeled links between houses and intelligent nodes.

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    17. Edwina Laginestra
      Edwina Laginestra is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Jack of all trades

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Hi Robert
      this is also an interesting discussion. Where do you get to sound all this out? Of course just as discussion, without terrifying many that it is all decided. We obviously need more of those Ruddy forums. But my green roots (literally) betray me here. What were the plastic pipes your daughter used, as pipes made from PVC had toxicity issues (I can't remember what materials caused leaching but I'm pretty sure hydrogen was one), and I seem to remember sourcing difficulties for alternatives during the Olympic building period. And despite some tree roots damaging pipes I'd still prefer them in the streetscape that not - which is why I really like Guy's invention

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    18. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Guy Dixon

      OK. Almost convinced.
      Seems to me the main buried assets will be sewer mains and water mains.
      Sewer mains typically rely on gravity - they are designed so everything flows down to some collection sump.Typically buried under the road at the time of subdivision of the land. Out of your way.
      Water mains typically follow the lie of the land, as the water is under pressure. In a grid matching the land parcel layouts. Same as sewer main. Again out of your way
      Stormwater drainage seems to me to be…

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    19. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Edwina Laginestra

      Hi Edwina,
      Very neat.
      As you go from top left to bottom right, so the number of protons increases. Number 1 is Hydrogen, Number 8 is Oxygen and so on. You could simply identify each element by its "Atomic Number" / number of protons.
      The chemical properties of elements are determined by the configuration of electrons, but only the outermost electrons count, usually. Think of each element as having a set of electrons like the inert / noble gas that comes before it (Neon, Argon and so on) and then add 1 to N electrons on top. This is what the diagram shows, and what the Periodic Table I posted shows.

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    20. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Edwina Laginestra

      Hi Edwina,
      PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) is suspect because it contains the makings of hydrocarbon chlorides that might leach out, especially if exposed to sunlight or heat.
      UPVC (Unstabilised PVC) is used to make pipes intended to be buried, and thus away from sunlight. Good for water and sewerage networks.
      PE (Polyethylene) is made from ethylene, and is very safe. It is also strong - hence is used to make plumbing pipes (I think). - but is relatively expensive.
      Plastic pipes are replacing the older pipes, and are relatively impervious to tree root penetration.
      I toured Bourke (dry) with the city engineer - lines of trees, which follow the road, which follow the sewer mains. The trees flourished despite the (then) drought!

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    21. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      There will NEVER be a hydrogen economy........

      Hydrogen is NOT a fuel. There are no hydrogen mines. Hydrogen has to be manufactured (currently at well over $60/L...)

      To make hydrogen requires ENERGY.

      When you burn it, you get less energy back than you put into making it.

      Then, its energy density (Joules/gram) is APPALLING. So it has to be liquified. At something like 24,000 psi and near zero degrees Kelvin, And THAT requires even more energy.... And uber pipelines that won't blow up. That's if they are made of really sexy metals that won't go brittle when exposed to the hydrogen. Otherwise they WILL blow up.....

      Even people like Amory Lovins who was a big promoter of 'the Hydrogen Economy' in the 90's now recognises we need to ignore it......

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    22. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      There will NEVER be a coal seam gas economy.

      Coal seam gas is NOT a fuel. CSG has to be manufactured from carbohydrates from photosynthesis using sunlight, carbon dioxide and water, and then buried under thousands of metres of soil and then left for millions of years and then released by drilling holes at an angle using very clever and expensive technology and pumping water and other chemicals under great pressure and polluting ground water and causing minor earth quakes that damage people's houses…

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    23. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Ah, but HOW BIG is a kg of Hydrogen?

      The answer is more than 11,000 times bigger than a litre of petrol!

      BTW, in that diatribe above regarding LPG gas tanks in taxis, the pressure in those tanks is 200kPa and -40C, while Hydrogen has to be kept at 700 bar or 70,000pPa or 350 TIMES the pressure of LPG, and -253C. Now you may think that makes little difference to how we might operate equipment, but I know better...

      The temperature requirements for liquid hydrogen storage necessitate expending…

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    24. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Mike,
      "Ah, but HOW BIG is a kg of Hydrogen?"
      Sorry, that is just silly. All you are saying is that the size of a kilo of ANY gas depends on its temperature and the pressure applied by the container in which it is kept. Basic science.
      The old "town gas" systems used to hold the gas in large "gasometers" - a big bucket floating upside down on water.- now obsolete.
      See http://www.wiener-gasometer.at/en for some old gasometers converted into exciting buildings. Ours have simply been demolished…

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    25. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Mike, you may know of "aerobic" and "anaerobic" bacteria.
      Aerobic bacteria work in oxygen rich environments. They produce CO2.
      Anaerobic bacteria work in oxygen poor environments. These are the little beasts that make hydrogen sulphide and (I think) coal seam gas, that is, products that still have energy available through burning them..
      They are used in sewerage treatment works "digesters" to turn waste into methane - which is then used to generate electricity to run the works.
      Suppose you could GM some of these bacteria to produce hydrogen?
      And then immediately run the hydrogen at low pressure through a fuel cell to produce electricity and water.
      And then use the electricity in a home or small community.
      All in something like a septic tank.

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    26. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      I don't need a chemistry lesson thanks.......

      None of this has ANYTHING to do with converting a system that runs on cheap, abundant, high ERoEI fuel, with one that..... well WOULDN'T!!!

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    27. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Mike,
      You might not need a chemistry lesson. But then, I am not really too fussed about talking to you. There are (hopefully) other people in this conversation that might welcome an exploration of chemistry and an alternative to hydrocarbon fuels.
      As to "converting a system that runs on cheap, abundant, high ERoEI fuel", there are a lot of people who have noticed that these fuels are (1) sometimes / often highly destructive of OUR environment and (2) always produce carbon dioxide - you know, that colourless, tasteless, invisible gas that is getting such an unfair bad notice these days.

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    28. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      I'm advocating shutting down ALL fuel use....... It's going to happen anyway, because as you point out the ones we use right now are terrible, and others like Hydrogen are even worse.......

      There are no viable alternatives to hydrocarbons. We had a once only endowment of cheap and abundant fossil fuels, and we squandered them on population growth, flying to the Bahamas for holidays, building enormous airconditioned houses lit with hundreds of hungry lights, getting food from energy hungry supermarkets, and driving SUVs for pleasure... We have reached the end of the line. The party's over. We need to live more simply so we may simply live. YOU, just don't want to know.......

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    29. Stephen Ralph

      carer

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      I like the idea of simple living.

      We have too many of a lot of things.......like clothes shops and cafes.
      Cars and technological gadgets.

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  46. Jeremy Hall

    PhD student

    Advising scientists on how to take the 'highest possible moral position' is fine, but I don't think scientists should have to take any moral position at all regarding how society responds to their findings.

    Clearly communicating your results to those who want to understand them is an important part of every scientists training. Using those results to advocate a course of action is not, and nor should it be.

    Pseudo-balanced debates constantly pit scientists who should be politically neutral against "interest groups" from one side of the values argument. I think scientists are being let down by people who demand they be political advocates as well as fact-finders.

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    1. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Jeremy Hall

      Jeremy,

      Oppenheimer, the scientist leading the creation of the nuclear fission bomb, was also a decent human being. He wanted to demonstrate the bomb to the Japanese to get them to realise they could not win, and to surrender (gracefully). Teller, the scientist leading the creation of the nuclear fusion bomb, was a nutcase - he was the model for the movie character Dr Strangelove. He wanted the West to make enormous bombs and equally enormous bomb shelter, and thus be able to use nuclear weapons in first strike attacks.

      MAD - Mutually Assured Destruction - seems very apposite!

      You cannot separate the scientist and the citizen. However, there is always a difference between truth and propaganda.

      Do you believe that experts in the effects of smoking on health (death), or the effects of lack of fluorine on teeth decay (no teeth), should not use their knowledge as scientists to promote sensible public policies?

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    2. Jeremy Hall

      PhD student

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Hi Robert.
      Sure, if they want to. But as you illustrated, the opinions of scientists on what is 'sensible public policy' can vary as widely as anyone's.

      The thing that sets an expert apart is their grasp of the facts, and their main role in public debate should be to inform people. As soon as they advocate actions that they think are sensible they're open to accusations of political bias.

      The article has good advice for scientists who want to help fix the big problem of people rejecting science they don't like.
      But that's a complex problem far outside the expertise of most research scientists, and I'm not sure they should be the ones expected to solve it.

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    3. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Jeremy Hall

      Hi Jeremy,

      "The thing that sets an expert apart is their grasp of the facts, and their main role in public debate should be to inform people. As soon as they advocate actions that they think are sensible they're open to accusations of political bias."

      For fun I suggest you google "oracles" and "augers" - see for example the Oracle of Delphi. You make scientists sound like gurus sitting in caves on mountains waiting to be consulted. Buckets of chicken innards waiting to tell ordinary mortals what to do.

      I think the main thing for scientists is not to pontificate outside their area of expertise, keep a sense of humour and proportion, and to work very hard on their expression of logical arguments.

      I think virtually all debates are "political" - about policy, and the division / diversion of resources. I don't think scientists "debate" scientific questions - they "investigate".

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    4. Jeremy Hall

      PhD student

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      The trouble is, the main thing for scientists is to do successful research and get funding. Otherwise they aren't scientists. It's hard work. So yes, they are stuck are on a mountain to some extent.

      Many are great at coming down and engaging with people, which is great should be encouraged of course. But I think people like journalists and politicians are better positioned to deal with the science-rejection issue. Shame hardly any of them seem to want to.

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    5. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Jeremy Hall

      "do successful research and get funding. Otherwise they aren't scientists."

      My first real job (at 26) after I started with my backyard laboratory and bomb-making centre (at 12) was as Quality Control Chemist at Chrysler Australia's engine manufacturing plant (now Mitsubishi). I think I am still a scientist. I don't think you ever stop being a scientist once started.

      "people like journalists and politicians are better positioned to deal with the science-rejection issue. Shame hardly any of them seem to want to."

      Abbott's Cabinet consists 42% of lawyers. Probably same for Labor.

      Do you think any of your school mates who became lawyers showed any scientific interest or aptitude?

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    6. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Jeremy Hall

      I see no reason at all why scientists should be politically neutral. In fact I would go so far as to say that, in their areas of expertise and where they have knowledge that could impact on society for good or bad, they have a greater moral duty than the rest of us to take a political position on that matter.

      And on the matter of politics here is a wonderful observation from Bertolt Brecht that provides a lot of food for thought.

      “The worst illiterate is the political illiterate, he doesn’t…

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    7. Jeremy Hall

      PhD student

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      That is a nice quote. And if an expert researcher also has a decent understanding of how the world works then that's great - such people are hugely valuable, if they're also good communicators.
      The problem is that people who reject certain opinions are justifying this by rejecting facts. If the opinions and facts are being voiced by the same individuals, it makes the rejection easier. Where do you get facts you can trust as being unbiased?

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    8. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Jeremy Hall

      " Where do you get facts you can trust as being unbiased?"

      It's a problem but for myself I am always skeptical of "facts" and opinions expressed by people and organizations with vested financial interests in having their "facts" accepted. eg Monsanto in the case of GMOs and Exxon Mobil in the case of climate change.

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    9. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Jeremy Hall

      "Where do you get facts you can trust as being unbiased?"

      That's a problem but for myself I distrust "facts" and opinions put forward by parties who have obvious financial interests in having their version of the "facts" accepted by the public and authorities especially if these parties pour money into campaigns to discredit objectors or undermine the evidence put forward by their opponents.

      Monsanto is one example of such a vested interest and Exxon Mobil is another in its attempts to undermine the science with regard to climate change.

      I am also wary of "facts" put out by those with religious tendencies or who adhere to ideological dogma in the face of contrary evidence (eg neo conservatives) since when faith replaces evidence anything becomes possible.

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    10. Jeremy Hall

      PhD student

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Exactly. Someone who thinks academics are all green lefty socialists will use the same reasoning. If a scientist says "according to my research we must act now to save the planet" such people will perceive a vested interest and question the research.

      I agree scientists should try to communicate more effectively with the distrusting public, and be as vocal as possible in making sure their statements aren't misrepresented. But I think getting the science accepted will tend be easier if scientists aren't on the front lines of the political debate.

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    11. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Jeremy Hall

      Jeremy,

      You seem to view "scientists" as distinctive people who wear white coats and pointy hats that pontificate at the "distrusting public" who immediately think the speakers have some sort of vested interest.
      Meanwhile Ian has identified "economists" (the "dismal science") as yet another set of people to be distrusted. I must admit I have identified lawyers ("First, let's kill the lawyers") as a set to be distrusted, and I have not yet started on engineers - see Piaget and "concrete thinkers".
      The truth is there are a number of disciplines / ways of tackling various sorts of issues, with overlaps of theories, jargon, techniques and facts between them.
      Political debates typically involve several disciplines, and people need to be exposed to and have explained in plain language the issues involved.
      Avoiding demagoguery (manipulation of the people, slogans) and broad education across disciplines is one line of defence.

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    12. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Jeremy Hall

      Jeremy Hall,

      Jeremy you have made some very good points which I would like to take up and push a little further. Also, perhaps, as a PhD student you may be able to tell us something about the process of expounding the results of research to the public which in your view would be most helpful in "getting the correct message across". May I also ask the question - what is your project for your PhD?.

      In reading the IPCC reports very carefully and in communicating with the scientists in the…

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    13. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to John Nicol

      I "believe" the Sun will rise in the East tomorrow.

      I "believe" that future eclipses of the Sun in Hawaii will finish after a few minutes, and Captain Cook will not be present to observe them.

      I have no proof whatsoever that these two statements are true.

      Why pick on a word that simply means that on a scale of 1 /10 or 0 to 100% probability I have a reasonable level of certainty that a (scientific / objective / logical) statement is true.

      Why do you keep referring to the absorption spectra…

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    14. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Hey! What about politicians?

      And I don't necessarily distrust economists but when those ones, especially those whose advice the politicians take continuously propound solutions that manifestly don't work based on theories that are questionable: then I distrust them. And I will say not all of their motives are bad.

      The billionaire George Soros has, post crisis, set up an institution called INET (International New Economic Thinking) in which dozens of economists and people from other disciplines…

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    15. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Ian,
      Do you really believe that some people sitting in a Soros seminar discussing pet economic theories should be confused with science?
      This thread is about anti-science activists, but has been hijacked by a "scare stories about Monsanto GM'. That sort of childish prattle is about the level of children telling stories in the dark, about the bogey man who kills you in your sleep.

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    16. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      GHS,

      You did actually read the article, and its first para about a protest about GM?
      I agree with you that the issue of anti-science activism is more than just GM - anti-fluoridation campaigns, the decline of science in schools, the belief by a large proportion of Americans that mankind and dinosaurs were contemporaries, and so on are other examples.
      I agree with you that economic theories are slightly "fuzzy" and often reflect ideology more than evidence.
      But I think the thread has covered all sorts of aspects of what science is, and some of the breakdowns in communication between various stakeholders - which applies to economics too.

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    17. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Stiglitz, now there is a good economist with experience in government and, I think, in the World Bank (or it may be the IMF).

      He has some involvement with INET too. Thanks for the reference.

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    18. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Robert Molyneaux

      Robert,

      I am sorry to have to correct you on a couple of fairly simple scientific statements. While I have acknowledged in most of the things I write that the warming of the surface of the earth results from radiation from the atmosphere and clouds, which also reflect those wavelengths which are not absorbed by green house gases including water vapour, it is such a basic concept that there will be times when no mention needs to be made of it.

      To place convection in context…

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    19. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to John Nicol

      John,

      Don't be sorry. But my name is Molyneux (Norman French) rather than Molyneaux (Irish). Robert Molyneux was the Master of Cook's Endeavour - apparently a likeable drunk.

      Anyway - there are three sorts of movement of heat.
      1, Conduction when solid substances receive heat and it then spreads through the object by its atoms / molecules vibrating against each other and into anything the object touches, as per cooking vessels. Metals spread heat very quickly, non-metals do not.
      2, Radiation…

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    20. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Robert Molyneux

      You have an interesting name, Robert.

      A bit more detail on conduction - basically metals are good conductors of heat and electricity and non-metals much less so. Glass however, is in general a very good conductor, while many types of stainless stee, for instance can be very poor conductors.

      The correspondence between heat conduction and electricity is also related to free electrons in the metal which carry electricity exclusively but add significantly to the effect of conduction…

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    21. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to John Nicol

      John,
      "Molyneux" comes from Normandy. Apparently they all went across with William the Conqueror and helped him knock of the English, being rewarded with land in England and Ireland. It is now an uncommon name in France.
      Anyway - as you say, conduction of electricity and heat in metals is due to the ease of movement of electrons. Normal glass is NOT a good conductor of either because its electrons are bound to the amorphous silica that makes it up.

      You state about convection "they cannot still…

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    22. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      G'day again Robert. That is interesting regarding your family background and their very early migrationto Engalnd in ~1066. We have some friends (French) in Normandy who are more like the Sots in appearance - red hair and light complexion. I think there was a lot of cross channel migration from a very long way back and of course the Jacobite rebellion was carried around the support from France but it didn't quite work out right and the Scots, which probably included some of my forebears who came…

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    23. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to John Nicol

      Cook's Master was apparently a sot.

      I have not done any modelling for years, but I suppose "finite cell" might be one way - consider the atmosphere and oceans as an array of cubic (km) cells, and then consider the movement of energy and mass between them.
      I think the problem would be the sheer number of cells to be computed.
      Then to compare model and reality you would have to have a statistically significant number of samples of energy and mass transfer taken from these gazillion cells, taken every hour or so, for an extended period, say five years. A gazillion gazillion samples. Repeat after me: Modelling is useless.
      BTW - I have seen somewhere the idea of an enormous chimney, about 1 km high (comparable to the towers being built in Dubai etc) that uses convection to draw air up or down, and to drive turbines to generate electricity. This might be a good test-bed to model convection.

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    1. Lisa Hodgson

      Director

      In reply to David Tribe

      David, do you realise you are linking to a page that declares the IPCC report as science fiction? That refers to *global warmists. That links to a video called 'climate change crock'. You couldn't get more anti science than that could you? Do you think that climate change is crap?

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    2. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Lisa Hodgson

      Lisa,
      When you read the IPCC SPM for AR5 just released. you will find a number of inconsistencies of the type indicative of a hasty cobble together by non-scientist activists.
      The IPCC are supposed to deal with man-made global warming. They have targeted CO2 as a gas in the air that can cause temperature changes reflected in the climate, such as warming. The burning question is, how much warming? Warming is traditionally expressed as Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity, of which the IPCC has just written…

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    3. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      "In essence, the IPCC is stating that even now they have no idea of the quantitative relationship (if one exists) between CO2 in the air and the temperature of the air."

      Perhaps you or one of your denier friends can provide the answer then? You have had 20 odd years to research it haven't you?

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    4. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      No Ian,
      If you propose a hypothesis, you have to defend it - from criticisms of the type that I have made, merely quoting the IPCC's words back to them.
      If I had to correct the errors I meet in climate science, there would not be enough hours in the day.
      For example, I suppose that you think that the IPCC is postulating alarming rates of global warming out to tear 2100. (Correct me if I am wrong).
      Well, here is what the IPCC says, with my comments and obs in 2. and 3…

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    5. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Ian Rudd

      Ian,

      I just thought I should remind you that the modelers have been working on this problem - thousands and thousands of them, equivalent I believe, to about 97% of all climate scientists, pre- and post-IPCC - but they DO NOT YET have one model which can determine the climate for any of the known climate-years i.e. any year prior to 2013 and probably back to say 1930.

      In terms of their beloved "long term scenarios" the results from different models have a spread of a factor of…

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    6. Rotha Jago

      concerned citizen

      In reply to John Nicol

      I was interested to hear that Jonathon Porrit in his latest book on the future, dismisses GM as a failed system. He goes on to say that China is addressing the problems associated with Food and Climate in a much more open way. Our stifling of debate about about Climate and Food will ensure that we are left a long way behind in the next 50 years. Have you read "The Wisdom of Crowds"? GM is damned. NO ONE WANTS IT!!! Glyphosate destroys soil fertility. It also destroys soil's ability to absorb water…

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    7. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Rotha Jago

      Rotha Jago

      Rotha, I note that you have very strong ideas on these matters so I will not attempt to discuss this matter any further.
      John Nicol

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  47. Fred Moore

    Builder

    You don't need minds going beyond Science. You need to Raise the science to a whole new level.

    You don't have to be Einstein to know Climate change is a false chicane.
    First up all the CHG proponents as schizoid- They ALL want more immigrants and babies to boost their low class vote base conveniently forgetting its human numbers that cause climate change. Which proves the CHG issue is nothing but a chicane to cover up a nasty POWER grab on the political landscape.
    Every one of 7.2billion Earth…

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  48. Mike Stasse

    retired energy consultant

    "but I believe that not all science is equal"

    My son has two science degrees and a Masters under his belt. He tells me that the goal of science is to seek the truth.

    The problem is that once the truth is found, OTHERS besides scientists put the truth into action.

    So we have stem cell therapy and nuclear bombs. GMOs and Permaculture. And who decides what is done with it all?

    People with MONEY. People with MONEY who want to make even more of it..... The fact that scientists have to grovel to these people to fund their research is totally abhorrent to my son. Until we move from an economy back to a society (it's coming, it's coming....) nothing will change.

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