Di Natale breaks with Greens’ policy on genetically modified crops

di natale-richard-dr-28-486_225Richard Di Natale has broken with The Greens’ policy on genetically modified crops, saying that he does not believe genetically modified crops pose a significant risk to human health. He says there is no concrete evidence on potential health harms to people.

    “The literature so far, on the issue of human health, hasn’t produced evidence of widespread and significant health harms,” he said.

    “The bigger concerns are around issues of intellectual property.”

Di Natale still supports The Greens’ policy.

    He said the real problem was not the technology but the way it was applied and, as a medical practitioner, he did not have a philosophical or ideological opposition to the technology itself.

    “The concerns are less around human health and much more around the application of the technology when it comes to giving farmers choice, ensuring that farmers are able to produce a non-GM product if they choose, making sure we don’t use this technology simply to drive up the use of more herbicides and pesticides, which is not good land management,” he said.

    “I think that’s where this debate needs to head.”

Nevertheless, the dangers to human health as well as to animals and the ecosystem is central to The Green’s policy on “genetically manipulated organisms”.

My impression of the policy is that it sets the bar so high that no genetically modified organism would ever be approved. For example:

    Scientific evidence produced independently from the developers and proponents of the GMO must be undertaken and form the basis for assessing and licensing of GMOs. GMO assessments must be broad, independent and scientifically robust.

Ashley Ng explains how GM crops are assessed in Australia.

    Foods produced using gene technology are prohibited from sale in Australia and New Zealand unless they have undergone strenuous pre-market assessment and been approved by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

Fundamentally the health risk information is supplied by the applicant, the FSANZ does no testing of its own, but:

    FSANZ also uses other sources such as scientific literature, including evaluation of animal feeding studies where available, independent scientists, other regulatory bodies and importantly, the general community who can tender written submissions for currently open assessments.

In my post last year Seeking answers on GM food I went into detail on how testing is done. I believe these tests would fail the Greens’ requirements. They are not third party tests and they don’t involve human trials. Greens also want assurances that no harm is done to the environment and want to use the precautionary principle.

It’s hard to see that anything would pass. Meanwhile no such hurdles are put in the way of conventional plant breeders.

So far specific GM varieties of canola, corn, cotton, lucerne, potato, rice, soybean and sugarbeet have been approved. The Greens want these cleaned out and a moratorium established.

I keep saying that food relies on trust, which is easily broken. Public figures like Di Natale coming out may help to build trust in GM foods. Clearly commercial self-interest works in favour of keeping consumers safe.

Elsewhere The Conversation has been giving the topic considerable attention over time. They recently ran a series of articles on GM in Australia. If you look under tags such as Genetically modified crops there is plenty to go on with. So far I’ve not found any articles that question the technology, although one on ethics asks the question, because we can does it mean we should?

One article looks at why the US and Europe went different ways on GMOs. Last November half of the 28 EU countries indicated they intend to opt out of the EU’s new GM crop plan, apparently over concerns over food safety. Vivian Moses thinks that big biotech is quietly winning the war by working with those who accept the technology.

Probably penetration will continue here, The Greens notwithstanding. However, there will continue to be issues around the industry.

45 thoughts on “Di Natale breaks with Greens’ policy on genetically modified crops”

  1. This is already old news. Di Natale backed down only days after he spoke out. Di Natale is just as crooked as all the other Greens.

    Let’s face it, the fabricated concern over GM is an issue of ideology and profit driven self-interest on behalf of the organic and alt-health industries. Safety has absolutely nothing to do with it. Green ideologues need to make the public fear and mistrust conventional food in order to con the public into paying two or three times the price for identical organic food.

    We know safety is not the real issue because chemical and radiation mutagenesis, which causes massive genetic disruption and can even changes the number of chromosomes, has been quietly used to produce new food plant cultivars since shortly after World War Two. No-one ever blinked and no-one got sick. Even the organic industry hypocritically uses synthetically mutated cultivars.

    But the really depressing thing is that new disease resistant GM cultivators that have been or are being developed for use in poor countries, often by not-for-profits, will probably never make it to market because hundreds of green NGOs, many of them founded in the West, have spooked the local population, media and politicians. This means people will die, particularly as the world’s population climbs toward 11 billion by 2100 in the midst of climate change.

    What we are witnessing is Green eco-terrorism. Mostly the terrorism takes the form of propaganda and calculated lies. although anti-biotech vandalism does occur and bomb threats have been employed by green groups in latin America.

    The Green anti-food campaign is just as devastating and murderous as the extreme Islamist bombing and killings aimed at polio vaccination workers and clinics.

    Individual greens may be likeable, but green ideology is death.

  2. There are three points here requiring comment.

    First, is there evidence that Di Natali backed down. I don’t have time to look for it now, but I’d like to know what he said.

    Second, I can’t believe that The Greens position is calculated, or “fabricated”, and is something they don’t actually believe in. Is that what you are saying?

    Third, I’d like some evidence of the relative cost of organic food. “Two or three times” is claimed. Is that actually true?

  3. Di Natale has no intention of challenging the Greens pro-hunger policy on GM. Did you check his follow up to this non-story on Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/senatordinatale/posts/926296397461955

    Di Natale is just another immoral slug who wants to stop science being used to help us feed the 11 billion people the UN says we’ll have by 2100. Make no mistake, this man is just another misanthropic Malthusian Club of Rome style Green.

    The Greens position is ideological and as a sociologically aware fella such as yourself would be aware, ideology is often refracted through self-interest. While ideology is necessarily a fabrication, it usually isn’t consciously dishonest. The Greens get votes and money from the multi-billion dollar organic and alt-health industries and it is entirely unsurprising that the Greens anti-science and anti-food fear mongering is beneficial to the wallet of these groups. I mean, would like a herbal detox with your organic kale? …

    As to the organic/conventional price differential, may I suggest you spend a few minutes checking for yourself next time you are in the supermarket? Last week I noted 750g of organic carrots in my local supermarket was about $4.50 whereas the conventional carrots were about $1.90 per kg. That is more than three times the price but a more typical markup is is about 100%

    Of course you’ll find various surveys on the web that purport to make more objective assessments, but many of these are done by pro or anti organic groups and I doubt their objectivity, so I’ll stick to my check-the- fruit-and-veg-in-the-supermarket methodology for the time being.

  4. For everyone’s convenience, this is what Di Natale said:

    A high evidence threshold must be met to demonstrate that there are not any negative impacts of GMOs before we would consider supporting their use. The best evidence available tells us that GMOs have not yet been proven universally safe for our environment, agricultural systems or human health.

    The evidence that worries me most is the risk GMOs pose to our natural environment, the increased use of herbicides that often accompany GMO use, the contamination of neighbouring (non-GMO) crops and the lack of strong food labelling requirements to protect consumers rights – not to mention the appalling behaviour of agri-giants like Monsanto!

    In recent times, our Greens MPs particularly Senator Rachel Siewert have been very vocal about our concerns that regulators haven’t been properly scrutinising new GM technologies.

    That is in fact a full-scale backdown on the issue of health.

    From my earlier post the American Medical Association said:

    It should be noted that absolute avoidance of all risk is not achievable.

    The Greens are holding the regulators to a standard that is unachievable.

    However, to spray insults and accusations of terrorism around the place is not conducive to rational discussion. I’ll say a bit more later.

  5. Brian, there is already a substantial body of peer reviewed literature that estimates the life years lost thanks to Green activists delaying the development and roll-out of more productive biotech crops. According to the science, this ideology kills and I think I have a right to be angry about it.

    As I’ve told you previously, my husband is from a poor Asian country that I visit every couple of years. I’ve seen too many hungry people with my own eyes not to be sickened by it and the callous ideas of white people in faraway places that contribute to it.

    As to terror, see here: https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2015/12/10/anti-gmo-mexican-activists-target-biotech-researchers-bomb-attacks/

    It is well documented that the ideologies that produce the behavior documented above have been exported by western Greens to the developing world. As an aside, Western anti-vaccination groups have exported their ideas to the developing world and some Jihadist groups have picked up on it with devastating results.

    If it was up to me the richer countries would be setting up a $10 billion fund to fast track biotech to make sure 11 billion mouths can be fed in 2100. But in the current political climate this is impossible. Note for instance how the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is currently being crucified by Green groups because it has dared dip a toe into biotech.

    We live in interesting times.

  6. Karen, the bottom line is that I can’t tell you what to be angry about, although I think it is an unproductive emotion which we can condition ourselves to minimise or even eliminate. You’re angry and I can understand that from your point of view.

    It is a public issue, though, as to what you do with your anger. At the very least as expressed here it’s not going to generate ‘teachable moments’. What it could do is turn many people with green orientations off reading the blog at all, and that is a concern of mine.

  7. To start at the beginning, I can’t imagine that Di Natale or The Greens would condone violent anti-GM action, or even “propaganda and calculated lies”. They seem to me to be more likely to take a stand on matters of principle than any of the other mainstream parties.

    You speak of “ideology” in derogatory terms and say it is “necessarily a fabrication”. My dictionary gives the main meaning as, the system of ideas at the basis of an economic or political theory. If you don’t have one that’s explicit, sociologists will tell you that you do have one that’s implicit, but may not be aware of.

    As for “fabrication” such a system is of course humanly constructed. Constructing a system of ideas does not have to be (and shouldn’t be) cynical, manipulative or dishonest.

    Andrew Heydon’s university text Political ideologies: an introduction (2nd edition) has a chapter on Ecologism. He identifies Rightwing ecologism, Ecosocialism, Eco-anarchism, and Ecofeminism. To lump then all together without differentiation seems to me puerile, or at least humbug.

    Florence Kluckhohn, an anthropologist writing in the 1950s, identified what she called ‘basic value orientations’. In relation to what she called “man’s relation to nature” she identified three orientations – man subjugated to nature, man in nature, and man over nature. (Please excuse her non-gender-inclusive terms.)

    Clearly the capitalist industrial system sees man as over nature, to shape and exploit as he will. Greens would see man as desirably embedded in nature, treating other species with respect and coming to enduring terms with the material and living environment.

    I’m with them on that. My main beef is that there is often what has been called ‘nativism’ or perhaps ‘arcadian dreaming’, a desire to return to a past that is in fact gone, never to return.

    As to GM foods, in my previous post I said:

    I’m inclined to think that people do themselves more damage through poor dietary habits than they are likely to suffer from GM foods.

    I’m also concerned about issues around the industry and GM implementation, but I don’t want to be specific or we’ll be here forever.

    At first I thought Di Natale had progressed to about the same position, in general terms, but it seems not. That is disappointing, but he’s not an “immoral slug” and calling him such will not produce any desirable change, IMO.

    I don’t see them as anti-science, just not understanding the necessary uncertainties of science.

  8. Brian, I don’t believe there is a single word in Di Natale’s statement on Facebook that you quote above that isn’t a calculated lie. Di Natale knows that his claims are false but he is unwilling to upset the party base, which is deeply wedded to Green woo. Let’s be honest, If Di Natale called for a science based approach to biotech, the Greens would quickly vote themselves a new leader and Di Natale would be forced out of the party. Remember Gillard on gay marriage: she gave completely contradictory messages to different audiences. Every pollie lies. I doubt it is possible to be in the main tent of politics, and to stay there for any length of time, if you don’t strategically lie. Indeed, I don’t even blame pollies for lying because it is childish to think that they have any real choice.

    The most explosive recently written exposé on how the Green Machine operates when faced with inconvenient scientific truths was provided by the left-leaning journalist Will Saletan in the left-leaning publication Slate. See here.

    Saletan’s article caused a major firestorm in that part of the internet that is interested in the intersection of science and green politics. Folk were talking about it for months. It is an absolute must read for anyone interested in these issues.

  9. Karen, Di Natale’s backflip was so comprehensive that he must have been re-educated or given an offer he couldn’t refuse. Kinda hope it’s the former.

    Saletan’s article is humungously long, but yes, informative. I wasn’t aware of the Bt insecticide issue.

    Greenpeace seems to loom large. I haven’t had much to do with them, but have reasons to distrust The Wilderness Society and Aila Keto AO, founder and President of the Rainforest Conservation Society in Queensland, Australia, now known as the Australia Rainforest Conservation Society.

    I notice Saletan’s article was written about the same time as the WHO expressed concerns about glyphosate as a carcinogen. Also saw an article from Argentina where glyphosate turned up on tampons and wound dressings.

    Any comment?

  10. Brian

    I know nothing about the Argentinian situation nor will I spend time looking into it because it is of no importance one way or the other concerning the issues at stake.

    The WHO IARC found glyphosate is a 2A “probable carcinogen”. More recently the IARC put red meat in the 2A category and processed meats like bacon in category 1, which means definite carcinogen. Even celery ends up in 2A because it contains psoralen!

    As has been widely reported, the IARC reports on hazard not risk. These are two very different things, for instance the rocks in your garden can kill you (hazard) but the likelihood that someone will pick up the rocks and smash your skull with them (risk)is exceedingly low.

    The same can be said for the tiny amount of glyphosate consumers are exposed to, consequently most first world food safety assessing authorities have not changed their stance on glyposate subsequent to the IARC finding.

    Interestingly, you can still walk into Bunnings and buy derris dust (rotenone) as an organic treatment for whitefly etc, yet it has recently been banned by many countries organic certification programs because of convincing evidence that it causes Parkinson’s disease.

    It is perhaps worth pondering why the glyphosate story got 100 hundreds times the press coverage the rotenone story received.

  11. Here’s the Argentinian story. You might be interested in the claims made.

    17 ppb doesn’t seem like a lot. My interest is because I use the stuff quite a lot, mostly along fence lines and weeds coming up between pavers. And in brushing on weed type shrub, tree and vine species that I’ve cut off. I don’t think what I do would hurt anyone else, but I might pick up a bit of the stuff over time.

    There seem to be a few native species that are incredibly sensitive to the chemical and are inclined to kark it when you spray anywhere near.

  12. I use plenty of glyphosate on my small farm, so we buy it in 20 litre containers from ag chem supply stores. I’m relaxed about it. I’ve never used safety gear and I haven’t grown an extra head or anything. The sun exposure I get when I’m out spraying on the occasions I forget to wear a hat is probably a 1,000 times bigger cancer risk.

  13. Karen you said above:

    Brian, there is already a substantial body of peer reviewed literature that estimates the life years lost thanks to Green activists delaying the development and roll-out of more productive biotech crops. According to the science, this ideology kills and I think I have a right to be angry about it.

    I think you definitely should provide a link when you say things like that.

    Brian is right to be concerned about the way you express yourself – your language and attitudes do put me, as Green supporter, off getting involved in these discussions. I know Richard Di Natale and have worked with him on policy, and I find things like you calling him an “immoral slug” abhorrent.

  14. I did a search for “life years lost” and the results included life years lost due to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, environmental noise, suicide, incarceration, chronic disease and the time taken to approve drugs.
    There was no result at all for “Green activists”.
    Including “biotech crops” in the criteria managed to find only two hits, both of them on sites which are by no measure objective (one of them is barely literate).
    I join Val in requesting a link to the substantial body of peer reviewed literature please Karen.

  15. This could be one of them

    This is an indicator of the economic power of the opposition towards Golden Rice resulting in about 1.4 million life years lost over the past decade in India.

    Wasn’t hard to find, even for a dunce like me.

  16. I’ve already noted that I found two articles and even when the fruit of your labours is added the result is not a “substantial body of peer reviewed literature”.
    I’m sure Karen has the link we are requesting.

  17. Val, can you tell us what you think of Tony Abbott, George W Bush and George Brandis? If I look at your commenting history, will I see you saying unpleasant things about them or other conservative politicians? Have you ever been criticised for your commenting style, including criticism from your own side of the political aisle? Hint: I know the answers already. Nearly all of us say yucky things about our ideological enemies. Politics arouses the passions and gets the blood pumping in all of us who care about the future. Such is life.

    Jumpy gets full marks for finding one of the peer-reviewed studies I’ve read. I’m not sure how Zoot could’ve missed it as it should have taken him no more than 10 or 15 seconds to track down. I suspect Zoot didn’t try very hard.

    I’ll add to Jumpy’s find if and when Zoot and Val read the Saletan article and share their opinions on how the Green ideologues have behaved. I’ve spent plenty of time on this thread and I have done most of the legwork, including pointing to Di Natale’s backdown from the OP. I think it is more than reasonable that others demonstrate a genuine interest in fruitful dialogue by making some type of contribution that goes beyond whinging that I am not being nice to their team.

  18. Karen, I stated my search criteria and I stated my results. From your response I must assume there is not a substantial body of peer reviewed literature that estimates the life years lost thanks to Green activists delaying the development and roll-out of more productive biotech crops.
    Thank you for your participation.

  19. Thanks Zoot. I would’ve bet my house on you responding in this way based on your past performance 😉

    I will put up a list in my own sweet time. It is already partially complete but I want to write about it in addition to putting it up but real life duties must be attended to ATM.

  20. Note Brookes and Barfoot don’t use a concept like DALYs but from what I can gather they’ve done the most comprehensive survey of the impacts of GM. They conclude it has performed even better in developing than developed countries, which defeats the standard green falsehood that GM is only for the rich.

    Qaim appears to be a the founder and most prolific author in this field. A search on his name may yield additional publications.

    Stein A.J., Sachdev H.P.S., Qaim M. (2008). “Genetic engineering for the poor: Golden Rice and public health in India.” World Development 36(1): 144-158. doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2007.02.013.

    Stein A.J., Sachdev H.P.S., Qaim M. (2007). “What we know and don’t know about Golden Rice.” Nature Biotechnology 25(6)

    Alexander J Stein, H.P.S. Sachdev & Matin Qaim
    Potential impact and cost-effectiveness of Golden Rice Nature Biotechnology 24, 1200 – 1201 (2006)

    Qaim, M. 2006.
    Adoption of Bt cotton and impact variability: Insights from India. Agricultural Economics
    Review, 28: 48-58.

    Stein A.J., Sachdev H.P.S., Qaim M. (2006). “Potential impact and cost-effectiveness of Golden Rice.” Nature Biotechnology 24(10)

    Justus Wesseler and David Zilberman
    The economic power of the Golden Rice opposition. Environment and Development Economics

    Zimmerman and Qaim
    Potential health benefits of Golden Rice: a Philippine case study. Food Policy 29 (2004) 147–168

    Matin Qaim
    Benefits of genetically modified crops for the poor: household income, nutrition,
    and health. New Biotechnology Volume 27, Number 5 November 2010

    Brookes and Barfoot
    Economic impact of GM crops
    The global income and production effects 1996–2012. GM Crops & Food: Biotechnology in Agriculture and the Food Chain Volume 5, Issue 1, 2014

    Book Chapter:

    Matin Qaim (2011), Chapter 2 Genetically Modified Crops and Global Food Security, in Colin A. Carter, GianCarlo Moschini, Ian Sheldon (ed.) Genetically Modified Food and Global Welfare (Frontiers of Economics and Globalization, Volume 10)

  21. This is delicious. The Green ideologues keep telling us that we can’t trust industry tainted biotech science yet when it comes to unethical behaviour the ones who keep getting caught out have green credentials. Apparently we can now add Prof. Federico Infascelli to the list of green scientists who put ideology before scientific objectivity. He can take a seat next to Charles Benbrook and Gilles Seralini in the Naughty Boys Room.

  22. I see comments have dried up which is not a total surprise.

    On the matter of prices for organics raised earlier, I checked with someone who organises an organic co-op in the next suburb. He says that on average people probably are paying 50 to 100% more for organic food, but item by item it’s very variable. If more farmers go organic it will become cheaper.

    He makes the point, inter alia, that organic farmers get a fair price for their produce, which is not always the case with farmers generally.

  23. So a large monetary gain?
    Leme guess, sold at the weekend markets without declaration to the ATO, no tax too.

    When your ripping the whiteys off, don’t worry about the brownies starving to death.

    Win/win for Big Organic and da greens.

    ( thought I’d try get thing moving again )

  24. Jumpy, I don’t know much at all about the operation, but I understand the produce is from small farmers. I’m not sure what “Big Organic” is. I’ve never seen anything that would fit that appellation.

  25. Think about the way big tobacco spent years and millions of dollars doing everything it could to suppress information on the dangers of tobacco and block action that might have reduced tobacco consumption. Or big fossil fuel twisting and turning to block climate action. Or big…….
    When you think about these things it is not completely irrational for the Greens to be a bit paranoid about what is going on with big GM. Problem is that the policy as written is paranoid to the point where it seems to effectively block the use of GM no matter what the circumstances.
    On the other hand, if I was going to die within 24 hrs of sepsis I would agree to try antibiotics even if the doctors warned me that they weren’t 100% sure it was safe. Insisting that GM must be proved to be 100% safe before it is used is a luxury for those whose well being doesn’t depend on the use of genetic engineering.
    We need a number of things here:
    1. Testing by people whose job or next research grant doesn’t depend on ignoring test results that something ain’t quite right.
    2. Risk analysis that considers both the risk of using and not using a GM product.
    3. Commercial and patent decisions that don’t allow big GM to stop the people who really need GM from being able to afford it.
    4. Blocks on the use of genetic engineering to do things like give a weedicide supplier an advantage, make it harder for an Indian farmer to produce GM products.
    5. Careful watching what big GM is doing both here and overseas.
    We need an adult conversation about genetic engineering.

  26. John, the use of weedicide and insecticides is a big topic. Glyphosate is being used for weed control in “no till” farming, quite apart from GM.

    Also with Bt cotton, spraying of insecticides has been reduced by 80%.

  27. JD:

    When you think about these things it is not completely irrational for the Greens to be a bit paranoid about what is going on with big GM.

    Have been following this issue closely? Because Europe has largely blocked GM, the big seed companies are using more chemical and radiation mutagenesis. GM is like keyhole surgery which may change a couple genes. Mutagenesis can change thousands of genes and even change the number of chromosomes. Which is more likely to produce unintentional consequences? The answer is obvious. It is pure politics that one is allowed and the other isn’t.

    JD again:

    We need an adult conversation about genetic engineering.

    Read the meticulously documented and well researched Saletan article above. Green groups have absolutely interest in having an adult conversation about GM.

    You might also want to ask yourself why your Green mates aren’t making a fuss about GM biomedicine.

    The whole thing is a joke. Or at least it would be if it wasn’t holding up the roll out of GM in developing countries. It’s actually costing lives. I know scientists who’ve ceased their membership of the Greens in disgust over this.

  28. Green groups have absolutely interest in having an adult conversation about GM.

    Is there a “no” missing there?

    I was going to raise the issue of gene therapy in medicine. There is now a technology called “gene editing” emerging, where changes could be made to genes, in humans, and those changes are then inherited. This is raising ethical genuine issues.

  29. The way I see it there are three categories of people in the green space. The first is what I call “greenies”, members of green groups such as The Wilderness Society and Greenpeace.

    Secondly we have “The Greens”, politicians and members of the political party.

    Thirdly, we have a significant number of people whose philosophy is based on ecological values, but are not committed to any green organisation, and may vote for other parties, including the LNP and conservative parties elsewhere. This group also includes some scientists working in various branches of environmental science.

    I have problems with many “greenies” who may have a background in one area of environmental science, but are not practising scientists. Nevertheless they pontificate in areas where they have no expertise and become quite prescriptive, even expecting scientists to abide by their dictates. For example, Aila Keto, with a background in rainforest ecology had no trouble in lecturing dry-land farmers, and telling them that it is perhaps time they gave up and let productive land return to ‘nature’.

    I think we should hold “The Greens” to a higher standard, but frequently they disappoint.

    Amongst the “greenies” it seems that ‘manipulation’ of genes is a cardinal sin and any means are justified to stamp it out. When scientists follow suit by faking results, I simply can’t understand what they think there is to gain. As incompetent professionals they should be struck off the list, just as Ian Plimer should have lost his job over blatantly unscientific ‘reasoning’ in climate science.

  30. Brian, it sounds like we aren’t that far apart in our thinking any more.

    Funnily enough, I think I live a green life in many ways, for instance I’m frugal, I recycle, I’ve re-planted much of my farm along with my husband and children with native plants and we’ve even been able to coax some rare birds to set up home on the property. I also have a soft spot for Bob Brown and voted Green in the senate a couple of times. But my local Green’s branch is full of cranks like anti-vaxxers and raw milk enthusiasts and naturopaths as well as anti-GM conspiracy theorists.

    I think Rachel Carson, were she alive, would disown this mob.

  31. I have problems with many “greenies” who may have a background in one area of environmental science, but are not practising scientists. Nevertheless they pontificate in areas where they have no expertise and become quite prescriptive, even expecting scientists to abide by their dictates.

    Flannery ?

  32. Flannery ?

    Not quite, I think. His book Weather Makers has 243 references to the literature. He was seriously trying.

  33. Karen: You quoted this part of what I said:

    When you think about these things it is not completely irrational for the Greens to be a bit paranoid about what is going on with big GM.

    Your reply then started with:

    Have been following this issue closely? Because Europe has largely blocked GM, the big seed companies are using more chemical and radiation mutagenesis……. The answer is obvious. It is pure politics that one is allowed and the other isn’t.

    Your reply would be fine if this were a debate being run as part of a debating competition. Avoid answering the difficult part of what the other party has said, attack the opponents character and mental facilities and…..
    But we are not running a debate. We should be trying to have an adult conversation that about something that is not as simple as what you and some of the Greens seem to think it is.

  34. JD

    Avoid answering the difficult part of what the other party has said

    Can you tell us what you think is the most “difficult part”? In your first post on this thread you just listed a few talking points without any evidence and some of your talking points were obscure to say the least, such as this:

    Blocks on the use of genetic engineering to do things like give a weedicide supplier an advantage, make it harder for an Indian farmer to produce GM products.

    Can you rephrase and given an example because I’m not 100% clear on what you mean. You have also chosen a poor example in India, because, as you would know if you followed this issue as closely as I have, Indian law allows the state and federal governments to regulate seed prices.

    The other factor you need to consider is stealth seeds. In poor countries like India with minimal law enforcement, illegal GM seeds are traded on the black market. If GM seed suppliers set seed prices too high, farmers and traders can simply bypass the formal market place.

    This is another reason I have little time for the Greens these days. They seem to have no idea about how markets operate in practice. Instead it all big Big this and Big that, conveniently forgetting that Monsanto is the same size as Starbucks and the organic grocer, Wholefoods. There isn’t much money in agribusiness compared to most other industries, which is a worry in itself.

  35. Karen: I remember a very long strike where the unions had the emotional high ground and the company had the legal high ground. Both sides of the dispute were standing on their little blobs of high ground for weeks talking past each other while the workers were losing wages and the company was losing millions.
    Lots of drawn out disputes and unproductive negotiations are like that and often bog down in exchanges of abuse that make reasonable outcomes and result in ongoing bitterness between the parties.
    I find you a text book example of someone who talks and yells past people from what you perceive to be your little mound of high ground. Worse still, the talking and yelling is too often accompanied by abuse of everyone who doesn’t accept your view of the world.
    I am not going to waste anymore time on you.

  36. There are a few comments I’ve been meaning to make here, but have not been able to find time. First, the question pressed by Zoot. Karen said:

    there is already a substantial body of peer reviewed literature that estimates the life years lost thanks to Green activists delaying the development and roll-out of more productive biotech crops.

    Jumpy produced an article by Justus Wesseler and David Zilberman and then Karen produced a list.

    Some of the articles look strictly off topic. I had a bit of a look at Wesseler and Zilberman, and found that their main focus was “disability-adjusted life years” (DALY). For actual deaths they quote another author, Stein, so I’m still wondering how many genuine articles there are addressing the issue of deaths.

    There are three take-outs. One is that evidence relating to deaths seems to come mainly from the non-approval of Golden Rice. Secondly, that the potential benefits of Golden Rice, while never claimed to be the whole solution to nutritional deficits or even Vitamin A deficiency are such that it’s non-approval is scandalous.

    Thirdly, Karen, while thanking you for your effort I still can’t trust your accuracy.

    By the way, I believe I said way back when we got into this issue last year that Golden Rice should have been approved.

  37. Back here Karen said:

    Brian, it sounds like we aren’t that far apart in our thinking any more.

    This whole thing started with comments about Vandana Shiva, who received the full treatment from Karen. My problem was that I had a lot of questions about GM and no definite answers. But apparently anything less that certainty was evidence of a defective mind, or something.

    When I said I wanted to read someone I could trust to pick their way through the evidence I was accused of seeking scientific heroes.

    Eventually, Karen mentioned Grist author Nate Johnson. I followed up and found a meticulous journalist who’s brief clearly was to be impartial. I found the articles I read there helpful and picked my way through the basic issue of the health effects and the testing/approval process in the post Seeking answers on GM food, which gave me a position, something short of absolute certainly, but enough to relax somewhat about the gravity of health concerns.

    But I fell in a hole it seems when I backed GM labelling and the Europeans keeping their own approval process. So I copped a spray. I never got around to responding, so there it stays.

    I’m sorry, I still think it’s a good idea not to trust the approval processes in other countries, and if we don’t label GM foods we’ll encourage the practice of some companies labelling their stuff “GM free”, which I read is happening in the US.

    I still don’t know that Vandana Shiva is as evil as she was made out to be. I suspect not. I think she can’t claim to be a working scientist, but as to the rest, I’d have to check her out and I don’t have time.

  38. The disability-adjusted life year (DALY) is a measure of overall disease burden, expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death. When I said life years lost I meant DALYs in the manner in which it is used in the literature.

    If Val has anything intelligent to say in defence of the Greens ban on biotechnology, I’ll address with scrupulous politeness if same is provided. As to Davidson, he has failed on each and every occasion that I’ve discussed issues with him to provide evidence. He generally prefers personal attacks.

    Brain, you I can’t say I automatically trust your accuracy either- your bizarre global cooling prediction, treating Shiva as a reliable source etc… Now can we cut out the personal attacks and discuss matter like adults?

  39. Looks like Insulin and Hep B vaccine are from GMO.
    Do the greens what them banned too, let more die ?

  40. I use “let die ” rather than ” kill ” as there is a big difference, even though the result is the same.

  41. There’s no need to overdo the politeness by calling him “Brain”.


    Officer rushes into De Gaulle’s tent, shouts “Mon Dieu!!

    De Gaulle: ” ‘Mon General’ will suffice.”


    au ‘voir


  42. Yeah, thanks, Ambi!

    Jumpy, good point and thanks for the link.

    Karen, once again I find myself defending my reputation on my own blog. You say:

    your bizarre global cooling prediction

    For those who came in late, I don’t have the reference, but once on Quiggin’s blog, when I knew next to nothing about climate change I said something of the kind. It’s a long time ago, but I recall that I’d read a long article by someone whose name I’ve forgotten, who had a thing about large-scale low-probability risk. He was impressed by the Younger Dryas event about 12,900 years ago, when the northern hemisphere temperature dropped by 2-6 degrees in a matter of decades and stayed that way for over 1,000 years.

    Any way he wasn’t a scientist and was dead wrong about a couple of scientific matters. Later when I’d read a lot about climate change, I blogged a lot about it at LP and was followed there by at least three climate scientists. When LP folded one of them invited me to do a joint blog with him, which I declined for various reasons, one of them being I didn’t want his reputation on the line if I made a big boo-boo.

    Karen you didn’t say in a kind, respectful way, “Hey Brian, do you realise…?” You said something like “Hey folks, want to see something really funny?” It was school yard bully put-down stuff.

    And when I took Vandana Shiva at face value, it wasn’t a calm rational point made and a link given, which came much later, it was bile and vitriol for Shiva and basically abuse for me.

    So Karen, what’s bizarre is that you are the one calling for calm rationality after all that, and more, and your first two comments on this thread.

    Late last year I came to realise that I couldn’t any longer recommend the blog to any people I’d really like to read it.

    So I think it’s time to draw a line.

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