Archive for June, 2016


Source: ABC Rural. 29 June 2016

The Labor Party in Western Australia is reconsidering its long-held policy position to transition WA out of genetically modified (GM) crops if it wins power at the state election in March.

In a major backflip, Labor’s Shadow Agriculture Minister Mick Murray said it was time for the party to be practical about the future of GM technology in WA, and look at ways for GM and non-GM crops to co-exist, rather than becoming GM-free.

“We have a policy position as anti-GM. We understand now that with GM canola already out there, you just can’t turn the switch off,” Mr Murray said.

The comments follow Tuesday’s passage of the GM Crops Free Areas Repeal Bill through the upper house of State Parliament.

The bill now has to make its way through the lower house, which should occur when Parliament resumes after the winter break.

According to both sides of government, the passage of the bill now seems a fait accompli….


21 June 2016. Source: ABC Rural.

A science communicator has blamed decisions made two decades ago for why consumers have been slow to accept genetically modified foods.

Consultant Dr Craig Cormick said GM was pitched too heavily at farmers and companies, rather than consumers when it was first marketed 20 years ago.

He said while the majority of Australians neither supported nor rejected GM foods, with the debate largely happening at polar ends of the spectrum.

“About 15 per cent are at either end, we call them the ‘polar bears’, who say they either ‘never ever eat GM food’ or ‘GM is fine, there’s nothing wrong with it’

“The rest, 60 to 70 per cent of the public we call the penguins because they move around a bit depending on the issue or the topic, tend to say ‘it’s OK if you prove it’s safe,’ or ‘OK if you prove it’s regulated’.”


15 June 2016. Source: Media release, ATSE

Numerous, credible scientific reports about the safety of new food technologies, such as genetic engineering, will not see the technology embraced because scientific evidence does not necessarily change attitudes.

This is the message of Dr Craig Cormick, a leading science communicator who will be addressing community attitudes to new food technologies at the 2016 ATSE National Technology Challenges Dialogue: Agribusiness 2030 being held on 15 and 16 June in Sydney. It will bring together Australia’s top agriculture and agribusiness leaders and innovators from research, industry and government including Professor Alan Finkel AO FAA FTSE – Australian Chief Scientist, Ms Alison Watkins – Group Managing Director of Coca-Cola Amatil and Dr John Manners – Director of CSIRO Agriculture.

“Arguing about the validity of the science behind new food technologies is about as effective in changing attitudes as taunting and name calling,” said Craig, who has faced plenty of taunting and name calling as his academic and professional careers have centred on public acceptance of contentious science and technologies such as biotechnology and nanotechnology.

“Attitudes that were not formed by logic and facts are not influenced by logic and facts.” He explained that when presented with information that is complex, people tend to make emotionally-based judgements, driven by values or worldviews, and any information that doesn’t align with their values or worldviews tends to be rejected or dismissed.

“Scientific evidence has very little impact on anyone who already holds a strong belief that a technology, such as biotechnology, is not safe,” he said.

“Social research shows that tendencies towards conspiracy theories are strong predictors for anti- GM positions.

“Studies have shown that worldviews and beliefs, rather than age, gender, or other standard demographics, are better predictors of people’s attitudes to GM foods, climate change, vaccination, fluoridation or to science and technology (S&T) in general.

“We can see this played out in the seemingly contradictory positions of some members of the community. For instance, people with strong values on the sanctity of nature demand we respect the science on climate change, but then advocate we reject the science on genetically-modified crops. Meanwhile people with strongly pro-development values tend to demand we respect the science on GM crops, but advocate that we reject the science on climate change.

“People, however, are receptive to messages that align with their values. If you can identify people’s values and then frame a message to align with those values, you have a much higher chance of not having your message rejected out of hand,” he said….



Economic report signals end for GM barriers

The Land – 06 June 2016

RESULTS of a new economic report, showing Genetically Modified crops have increased farmer incomes by $1.37 billion in Australia since 1996 while drastically cutting greenhouse gas emissions, reinforces why unnecessary State-based moratoria should end, supporters say.

An independent report released today by Graham Brookes of UK-based PG Economics says in the past 20-years, Australian cotton and canola farmers have gained $1.37b worth of extra income and produced an additional 226,000 tonnes of canola that would otherwise have not been produced, if conventional technology was used.

It also said GM crop technology has enabled Australian farmers to reduce their use of insecticides and herbicides by 22 million kilograms of active ingredient, equal to a 26 per cent improvement in the environmental impact associated with pesticide use on the two crops.

“This reduced use of pesticides has also resulted in a saving of nearly 27 million litres of fuel use and 71.5 million kilograms less carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere,” it said.