Joyce backs GM science

23 May, 2014 02:00 AM
Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.
Breeding is ultimately a form of GM ... do we just say that being ape is pure and back to ape I go?
Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.

FEDERAL Agriculture Barnaby Joyce has weighed into the controversy over South Australian Agriculture Minister Leon Bignell’s appearance at an anti-Monsanto rally tomorrow (May 24) in Adelaide.

Last week, South Australian Liberal Senator Sean Edwards questioned Mr Bignell’s appearance alongside the Greens and activist group Deep Green Resistance at the rally against genetically modified (GM) crops at Parliament House.

Senator Edwards also said the new SA Agriculture Minister had “an inflated level of his own importance” given food safety regulations were a federal responsibility, through Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

Asked for his views on the controversy, Mr Joyce took a veiled swipe at Mr Bignell saying “if you don’t believe in genetic modification then you do believe in spraying cotton crops 17 times with (the toxic chemical) endosulfan”.

He said the GM debate had to move on from the “religious” and onto the scientific.

Mr Joyce said GM critics had every right to be precautionary and diligent “but if you’re absolute, then you’re really stopping a passage to do incredible things”.

“Ultimately, is your desire for no form of genetic modification at all?” he said.

“And remembering it’s already here - it’s not like it’s something that’s not coming - we’ve already got it.

“But where does that weigh when it comes to feeding people?

“Even breeding is ultimately a form of GM, just over a longer period. It’s driven by nature but it’s most certainly a form of genetic modification. I’m definitely genetically modified from the apes from which I am descended.

“And so, do we just say that being ape is pure and back to ape I go?”

CropLife Australia chief executive officer Matthew Cossey said he would be requesting a meeting with Mr Bignell to discuss his views on crop biotechnology.

“I’d thought we’d allow the Minister to have time and settle into the portfolio because I don’t think it’s one he’s deeply familiar with yet and agriculture is a significant area,” he said.

“Innovation, technological innovation and innovation in farming practices is core to how Australian farming becomes long term profitable and environmentally sustainable.

“I know that in SA, like the rest of the country, a clean, green, environmentally sustainable agricultural sector is something that people are very passionate about.

“Well, the single greatest innovation and the core to that sustainability is technology like agricultural biotechnology.”

Mr Cossey said GM cotton had been a great success story for growers and industry in Australia by improving environmental and economic outcomes.

“The reason we still have a cotton industry in Australia, and one that’s environmentally sustainable which uses significantly less inputs like pesticides, uses 30 per cent less water, has higher yields and is now sustainable in the long term is because of GM cotton,” he said.

“You see the same benefits coming through in canola and you see the research being done by organisations like the CSIRO and a range of public and private sector companies, looking at massive health benefits in some of the research in GM crops.”

In March after the SA election, Mr Bignell publicly questioned the safety of GM crops in SA where there’s a long-running moratorium on commercial production, in contrast to Victoria, NSW and WA that lifted bans over the past six years.

“I don't want to be the politician like the politicians in the 70s, who listened to James Hardie who said there are no dangers with asbestos,” he said at the time.

“I don't think we know what the long-term health consequences are of GM crops.”

But Mr Cossey said he was hoping the minister would now take time to brief himself on the facts about GMs.

“I’m yet to meet anyone who, once they’re briefed properly on the facts, as opposed to the scaremongering crazy rhetoric of people who wish to just undertake some ideological battles, doesn’t eventually understand how important it is,” he said.

“GM is the most tested food and agricultural technology in our history… we’ve had 4 trillion meals based on GM crops served around the world and not one health incident.

“It is crucial for the success of farming and I think over time, once Mr Bignell gets fully briefed, he’ll realise that he’s not on the right side of this debate.”

Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


John Newton
23/05/2014 6:51:59 AM

Breeding is not a form of GM. GM is a violent intervention. Could someone pass this on to Mr Joyce, the second Myths & Truths About GM, by two genetic scientists, At 330 pages it's a long read, but one of his staff could do it for him tails/140/gmo-myths-and-truths-2n d-edition As well as detailing scientific trials it also gives an extensive background on the science. Truth, not truthiness. Ad when he's moved on from that, he might like to do a little reading on climate change, perhaps the IPCC report
23/05/2014 7:29:37 AM

Barnaby needs to get his facts straight Endosulfan has been banned for years and there are much more targeted softer chemistry avaiable to deal with Heliothis like NPV viruses made in Australia. Instead we buy foreign owned seed from Monsanto which stifles innovation due to lack of market for softer chemistry. The GM advocates always fall back on cotton as the great success story for GM, but it has not been without its problems and Bt resistance is an ever present problem and we still spray for sucking pests, admittedly not as much as before transgenic cotton.
23/05/2014 8:33:44 AM

The issue for Barnaby is that the GM companies have been indemnified against fault arising from their "science", which has not been proved, only "approved" by a government ham-strung by its political ties to the USA. I normally like Barnaby's commentary but he is way off on this one and needs to put his glasses on so he can see clearly.
23/05/2014 9:34:47 AM

It is interesting that food has been successfully grown and consumed for thousands of years and within a decade we hear that we won't survive without GM. It's time the debate turned to who benefits and what those gains are. GM corn is now contributing to the greatest obesity epidemic that the world has ever seen..... it that the gains society needs or is it the pocket full of cash from the manufacturers and mass producers. Barnaby should exercise the same caution as with the climate change This is not for high speed expediency of a commercial bottom line.
David Harrison
23/05/2014 10:55:35 PM

So far this discussion has centred on whether or not GM is good/bad for farming and farmers prosperity. Supposedly there is less chemical usage, which is a good thing. However, ultimately it is the consumer who should have the final say. It would be very interesting to see how many consumers approve of GM. Correct me if I am wrong,but my understanding of GM is that it is across species, not within species. I have no problem with speeding up the NATURAL genetic modification. I do however have no time for transgenic modification.
Mischa Popoff
24/05/2014 5:50:36 AM

We could use a politician like Mr. Joyce over here in North America. Banning GMOs makes about as much sense as banning TNT, which, believe it or not, the French actually tried doing in the late 19th century for fear that Dynamite was actually too explosive! Isn't that what dynamite is supposed to do? Explode? In any case, the French preferred sticking with tried-and-true, traditional and "safe" gunpowder. But they quickly changed their minds when it resulted in Napoleon III‘s defeat by the Prussians at the Battle of Sedan in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.
X Ag Socialist
24/05/2014 9:07:44 AM

Stolen from Wikipedia for peppers benefit . The world population has continuously grown since the end of the Great Famine and the Black Death in 1350, when it was near 370 million.[6] The fastest growth rates – global population increases above 1.8% per year – occurred briefly during the 1950s, and for longer during the 1960s and 1970s. The global growth rate peaked at 2.2% in 1963, and has declined to below 1.1% as of 2012.[7] Total annual births were highest in the late 1980s at about 138 million,[8] and are now expected to remain essentially constant at their 2011 level of 134 million,
X Ag Socialist
24/05/2014 9:09:48 AM

The UN projects steadily declining population growth in the near future, with the global population expected to become between 8.3 and 10.9 billion (8 300 million and 10 900 million UK) by 2050.[10][11] UN Population Division estimates for the year 2150 range between 3.2 and 24.8 billion (3 200 and 24 800 million UK);[12] one of many independent mathematical models supports the lower estimate.[13] Some analysts have questioned the sustainability of further world population growth, highlighting the growing pressures on the environment, global food supplies, and energy resources.
24/05/2014 1:06:50 PM

Leon Bignell is an example of a true agriculture minister and steward of the people, attending to critical thinking and ECOLOGY. I think it's brilliant that the Greens and Deep Green Resistance are catalyzing important community conversations - unless we fight for our natural world it will be killed by GM and the like. Apparently time is short for the biosphere.
24/05/2014 1:09:08 PM

We need more ministers who take a Green and Deep Green stance! Its time for deep ecology, not corporate industrialism.
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