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David Edmunds writes: Re. “Genetically engineered foods are not science“(yesterday, item 13). John Hepburn’s defence of Greenpeace’s objection to genetically modified food is clearly nonsense. All of our food is genetically modified, mostly by selection of desirable traits induced by among other things cosmic radiation, but also by human induced radiation.

Greenpeace is apparently happy with crops that have been selected when their genome has been randomly hacked by such processes, or had other genes inserted through bacterial or viral interaction, but not when a known gene is precisely inserted into the genome.

Even if we eat an item of food, for example bush tucker, that has not been subject to selective breeding, it has been subject to the same processes through natural selection.

Of course genetic modification can be misused, but that pales into insignificance when compared with the breeding process that has produced the rest of our food.

This sort of self-indulgent policy has more to do with the corporate provenance of genetically modified food than any environmental problem and compromises whatever other good work the organisation may be engaged in.

Water pistol to a gun fight:

John Kotsopoulos: Re. “Stutchbury, Quiggin and the fallout from the recession of 2009” (yesterday, item 12). Boy did The Australian and its wannabe hit man Michael Stutchbury misfire on this one. Water pistol to a gun fight indeed!

To his credit most of the often scathing criticisms of the piece seem to have been published in the accompanying blog, including mine:

“The budget stimulus contained some of the worst government spending programs in the nation’s history. As Reagan once said ‘there you go again’ and by doing so you give credence to Quiggin’s accusation about this newspaper. I suppose you mean the Home Insulation Program and the Building Education Revolution. The independent reviews of both said they were largely successful and contributed to keeping Australia out of recession. Their success in helping tackle the GFC was also lauded by the IMF, World Bank and overseas commentators. The Lib alternative to the GFC was to lock in ongoing tax cuts that would cripple the budget and take way too long to have an effect.”

In my experience this concession to critics is an uncommon occurrence with many of the scribblers on that paper (journalist is too grand a description for such folk) often producing highly inflammatory pieces where there is  no opportunity for feedback or where responses seem to have been selectively published.

Peter Fray

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