GM food:

TJ Higgins of the CSIRO Plant Industry, writes: Re: “CSIRO scientist’s GM letter campaign ‘backfires’” (yesterday, item 3). Just to reiterate, I wrote to chefs who signed onto Greenpeace’s GM free charter because CSIRO believes it is important to provide the scientific facts around GM to help people make informed decisions about the technology, see CSIRO’s position statement on gene technology. My GM pea research emphasises the effectiveness of case-by-case evaluation of GM plants and the important role science can play in decision-making around the introduction of GM crops.

The research does not imply that all GM plants are inherently bad.  The GM peas had not been submitted for general release approval as they were still in the research phase. The GM pea research was in anticipation of a submission, pending results. See the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) website for more information about assessments of GM plants for general release (or www.ogtr.gov.au for general information). FSANZ is consulted as part of this process.

We support FSANZ’s comprehensive evaluation of GM foods. FSANZ relies on a range of information sources, including the scientific literature, to make a safety assessment on a GM food. FSANZ can request further testing if they have insufficient information from existing sources to make an assessment on any new GM food product. FSANZ says “This assessment ensures that any approved GM foods are as safe and nutritious as comparable conventional foods already in the Australian and New Zealand food supply”.

There is scientific evidence published in peer reviewed and independent journals that have not found any connection between health problems and GM food. For example, this review contains a list. Once again, no-one has been sacked from CSIRO for speaking out on GM. Our policy on public comment encourages scientists to talk about their science .

World Youth Day:

Yasmin Khan writes: Re. “WYD is the best PR the Catholic Church could pray for” (yesterday, item 15). Just wondering what all the fuss is about WYD — the 500 000 people at a mass at Randwick Racecourse, the youth of the “world” celebrating for a week, without drugs and alcohol and the reinvention of the Catholic Church. It all went off well, very well received and all, but remember the Hajj – the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca –happens every year, with more than three million people in attendance, with no drugs and alcohol, and a re-affirmation of their own personal Islamic faith. I can guarantee there would be more people at the Hajj from a diverse ethnicity than WYD, and no 4 page wraparound from the Murdoch press. Can there be a mention in Crikey when the time comes — in December?

Michael Byrne writes: Can I offer my few words of summation of the much maligned World Youth Day event? I’m from within the 7km inner city ABC/SMH/Crikey zone. I am reusing the following words as I penned them for my journal after my first visit three weeks ago to the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica.

Everything to confirm the prejudiced
Everything to bewilder the uninitiated
Everything to delight the believer
Everything to inspire the faithful
Nothing to nobody
Beauty to all

The Murray Darling:

Les Heimann writes: Re. “How to do a “murraydarling” i.e.: absolutely nothing” (yesterday, item 1). The term to “murraydarling” is certainly in line to update “bludger” or “bullsh-t” or “crap” or “spin”. However, it’s more likely that being accused of a “murraydarling” moment or being or doing a “murraydarling” may well connote all of the aforementioned. Congratulations Bernard Keane, submit your term to the Macquarie Dictionary now. As previously posited, we need to buy out the irrigators of both cotton and rice, and buy out some others as well. Reduce the demand for irrigation and the waters will flow — it’s not hard Kevvy and there’s plenty of money. Bloody politicians — they’d sell you the Murray/Darling if you didn’t watch them.

Global warming:

Tamas Calderwood writes: Mark Hardcastle (yesterday, comments) needs to keep in mind that CO2 constitutes around 4/10,000ths (0.00038) of the atmosphere, contributes less than 10% of the atmospheric greenhouse effect and annual human produced CO2 is less than 5% of naturally produced CO2. There is no “average” temperature for Earth, so his statement that temperatures since 1998 are above average is meaningless — all we can say is that recent observations are well within the range of normal variability. Put simply, Mark’s argument is that a trace atmospheric gas, which humans produce less than 1/20th of every year, is the sole reason for recent temperature increases while any temperature decreases can be explained by other factors such as the solar-cycle and la Nina. I find Mark’s argument inconsistent and unconvincing but nonetheless far superior to Harold Thornton’s argument (yesterday, comments), which was just weird.

Peter Costello:

Keith Bedford writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Why want Peter Costello back in politics? A man of smirk and mirrors. Unable to stand up to anybody and for anything. A typical Liberal politician of the right. It’s a pity he did not have his brother’s decency and courage. He hasn’t gone to private enterprise probably because they only want to pay him what he is worth — not very much. Why in heavens name should Australians want to continue paying him as a politician?

Peter Lloyd:

Steve Robinson of the Western Australian Substance Users Association, writes: Peter Lloyd in Singapore is facing very serious allegations indeed. At this stage it must be remembered that they are just that: allegations. Nothing yet has been proven. However should the allegations be proved to be true then should this influence our opinion of Mr Lloyd — should it lower him in our estimations — or should it make no difference? I would assert the latter position – it should not in any way influence us to regard Peter Lloyd as anything other than the first rate journalist that he was — until last week — seen as.

An individual who chooses to use illicit substances does not forfeit their right to be fully regarded as a member of society, enjoying all the benefits that accrue from this membership. Indeed if we adopt a hard-line approach to drug users then a considerable percentage of the community would have their lives ruined through the loss of careers, reputations and even the removal of children in their care. Statistics from the Illicit Drug Reporting Survey indicate that at least 40% of adult Australians have used an illicit drug at some point during their lives — overwhelmingly they do not go on to become regular and problematic users, instead they are indistinguishable from other members of the community. Drug users are everywhere, in all walks of life; we have families, friends and careers. We pay taxes and contribute to the community in many other ways. We are often forced to be invisible because there are damaging consequences to our being open about our drug use not because we are ashamed of what we do.

For many years opponents of the War on Drugs have argued that many of the most damaging consequences of illicit drug use are the result of laws which are bent on achieving the impossible, namely: legislating morality. If the case against Peter Lloyd is upheld then we will be witness to yet another victim of the War on Drugs. How on earth can 20 years prison and up to 15 lashes of the cane be seen to be a just punishment for such trivial offences? Clearly Peter Lloyd is a productive member of the community and the fact the he, allegedly, uses illicit substances in his private life should be of absolutely no consequence. The Australian Government should be doing everything in its power to secure Peter Lloyd’s freedom at the earliest possible occasion — to this end the imposition of a fine would perhaps be the best outcome that we could hope for.

In any event, should the allegations be upheld then Peter Lloyd’s career in journalism is almost certainly over — this alone would be too high a price to pay for such a minor misdemeanour. I wish Peter Lloyd well — I sincerely hope that the allegations are baseless. However should they be proven then I hope that he, somehow, manages to avoid the Singaporean Government’s over-reaction to illicit dug users. As a community we need to grasp the simple fact: Drugs have won the War on Drugs. It is time for a more humane approach to drug users. It is time to end this ridiculous War on Drugs which is, after all, a war on drug users and human nature.

Vader in Bondi:

Daniel Lewis writes: Re. “Vader in Bondi” (yesterday, comments). I don’t know why anybody was fooled about the location of the Darth Vader photo. The parking signage in the background is in another language. I wasn’t aware Waverley Council enforced one hour “Gjald” zones in Bondi. I had received the email a week earlier, without the “spotted in Bondi” subject line. What I don’t understand is why someone felt the need to add the superfluous (and dishonest) caption to a photo I originally found just as funny without it. Very un-Jedi.

Warringah:

Virginia Laugesen writes: Re: “Liberals saddle a Trojan horse for Warringah election” (15 July, Item 10). Crikey mentioned “only one community independent group standing in the September 13 elections — “We Love Warringah”. Crikey failed to mention the registered party of independents called “Wake Up“, which is a party made up of genuine, unaligned, local independents. We are running candidates in each of Warringah’s three wards plus a Mayoral candidate, Michael Regan.

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