July 10, 2003


Now Gynetic Gyorgy is published in the Sydney Myorning Hyrald. His anti-GM message is spreading through Australia faster than a famine across Africa, and no GM food can stop it!

Posted by Tim Blair at July 10, 2003 04:02 AM

I've sent my letter to the SMH. Lets see what happens -

Posted by: luis alegria at July 10, 2003 at 08:16 AM


It seems the SMH wants my phone number. That would be a problem as I am an Ocean and 16 time zones away.

Maybe one of you Aussies should have a go.


Posted by: luis alegria at July 10, 2003 at 08:29 AM

I don't think we should be too worried, as no-one of any importance believes anything they read in the smh.

Posted by: Toryhere at July 10, 2003 at 08:40 AM

The definition of a free press of ABC,SMH,AGE,SBS (the hagiographical spew on that Killer Gueverra last night was a shocker), others, is: free to promote communism and liars like Scrinis.`Nothing but the lie and aplogetics and sycophancy for killers( inclusive of the greens)will do ', is the motto.

Posted by: d at July 10, 2003 at 10:43 AM

They won't print a letter from me,

I don't live in Balmain.

Posted by: Nic at July 10, 2003 at 10:52 AM

My letter to the AGE:

First, let me say that I am an academic scientist with no links to Monsanto or any other biotech company. Let me also say that I have high hopes for GM foodstuffs and believe that a well informed public will eventually embrace this technology once it has been honestly appraised of the scientific facts.

Dr Gyorgy Scrinis, a research associate in the Globalism Institute at RMIT University, tells readers that "Public opposition to genetically modified foods has been a stumbling block to the commercialisation of GM crops and animals" (GM crops will not help feed the world, The Age, 8/7).

As a research scientist I would say that the only stumbling block has been vociferous scare campaigns waged by radical green groups such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. These scare campaigns have been designed to frighten people, not inform them. I am personally willing to eat GM soy, corn, or any other currently available GM-foodstuff put on my plate, in spite of what these groups and their mouthpieces say.

Scrinis states that "the new genetic technologies will largely be used to feed the power and profits of agri-food corporations." I really don't know what to make of this. In a free market economy, a company that does not turn a profit, at least in the long run, will go out of business. If Scrinis has a problem with a market economy, what does he suggest we replace it with? After all, Communist countries such as North Korea are not known for producing an abundance of food, GM or otherwise.

Scrinis engages in a gross generalization when he argues that genetically modified food stuffs "are primarily being developed to fit into large-scale, chemical-intensive, mechanised and capital-intensive farming systems." GM food is being developed to provide benefits to producers and consumers. How else are Monsanto etc going to compete with existing (non-GM) crops and foods if farmers and consumers do not believe it is in their interests to use them? I might also point out that there is nothing inherently wrong with "large-scale" food production. Indeed, the economies of scale allow for cheaper production and hence cheaper food.

Next, his choice of words is telling: He talks about "the requirements of the global food industries", citing the production of "non-softening fruits for long-distance transportation so well-off consumers can have access to year-round supplies of out-of-season fruits". Which "well off" consumers are these? Would these be the ordinary folk in, say, Australia who are right now being encouraged to eat more fruits and vegetables?

It seems unlikely that Monsanto etc are aiming for a niche market for these products. "The requirement for the global food industries" is Marxist-speak for "the requirements of consumers". Once again, biotech companies would not be creating products that consumers did not want. Furthermore, it must be pointed out that the third world is very keen to export to "well-off consumers" in the west. There have been numerous calls by such countries for Europe and the US to drop subsidies and tariffs.

Scrinis asserts that "Any increase in yields of crop and animal products will be headed for its usual destination: well-off consumers." Once again, since the third world is so eager to export to us "well off consumers", this would seem to be a good thing. But not according to Scrinis.

How does he know that these exporters would be worse off? His assertion is borne out neither by economic theory nor history. Let me illustrate with one example: As
refrigeration technology was developed, Australia started exporting frozen mutton and beef to Britain. At around the turn of the century, this was a major export earner for this country. Would Scrinis seriously suggest that this was a bad thing for Australia? That the benefit was only for "well-off consumers" in the UK?

Another assertion is that "Genetic technologies are also facilitating the rapid corporate integration and concentration of the food system, as a handful of corporations move towards the ownership and effective control of every stage of the global food system." This is the rhetoric of the rabid-left. Once again, if certain biotech companies get involved in various stages of production, there is nothing inherently wrong with this. "Effective control" of the food system ultimately resides with consumers.

Let us be clear on this point, biotech companies must offer food that consumers are willing to purchase and crops that farmers are willing to grow. It must be said that in contrast to Scrinis's assertions, the market for food is enormous and varied. Consumers have an abundance of choice, including organic food if that so pleases them.

One of his more absurd assertions is that "One such strategy for monopoly control is the patenting of all GM crops, with the aim of preventing farmers from saving and replanting their own seeds." There is nothing to stop farmers from saving and cultivating non-GM seeds if they deem it to be in their interests to do so. Apparently Scrinis thinks that farmers are too foolish to make such decisions, and are merely the pawns of some "global food cabal". There is no evidence to support his assertion that big-biotech aims to prevent farmers from saving and replanting their own seeds.

In another rhetorical fit, he asserts that "Overall, genetic technologies are facilitating a shift from a chemical-industrial to what I call a "genetic-corporate" form of agriculture - and this food system is undermining the food security of the world's poor and malnourished". Once again, there is no evidence to back up this assertion.

"Genetically engineered crops and animals further threaten the food security of the poor in a number of ways. First, to the extent that they enable large-scale, chemical-industrial farms to increase their productivity or profitability, this competitive advantage will enable the further squeezing out of small-scale farmers." I wonder if Scrinis realises the foolishness of this statement.

He writes about small scale farming as if it was a good thing. Small scale farming has been the bane of humanity for millennia. It is associated with high costs and low productivity. If it were not for technology, living standards in the West would be at a subsistence level.

The effect of the transition from small to large scale, high-tech production has been to massively increase yields while simultaneously reducing costs. Scrinis asserts, correctly that "...GM crops may accelerate the erosion of farm labouring work in poor rural areas through the further introduction of labour-replacing technologies."

Incredibly, he does not realise that this is a good thing. As late as the 19th century, about half of all Americans were involved in agricultural production. Today, it is something like 3%. Does Scrinis really believe that Americans would be better off if they were chained to the land? History once again shows that the freeing up of labour from the chains of agriculture is a good thing.

History overwhelmingly shows that, as agricultural technologies arise and countries embrace them, living standards increase. Indeed, the people of the Third World realise this and are eager to adopt the new technologies. Just ask Florence Wambugu, a Kenyan scientist who argues that GM crops are essential to Africa's future.

Finally, let me conclude by saying that Scrinis's article seems to derive more from fanatical left-wing ideology than from academic reasoning. He does not back up his assertions with evidence or economic reasoning. Indeed, his statements are counter to much of 20th century agricultural history. I could understand if Scrinis had written his article as a private citizen. But to see such an article coming out of a prestigious university such as RMIT does not bode well for the academic standards at that institution.

Posted by: Aaron Oakley at July 10, 2003 at 09:16 PM

Bravo Mr. Oakley !

Good luck.

Is you are an Australian you should send it to the SMH as well.


Posted by: luis alegria at July 11, 2003 at 03:03 AM

Oh, darn it !

That was an "If" not an "Is"!

More coffee -


Posted by: luis alegria at July 11, 2003 at 03:18 AM