Republic of Moreland

February 29, 2008

Smear of scientists

Filed under: food,health,politics — Kath @ 9:22 pm

I think that’s a good collective noun, isn’t it? “There was a smear of scientists at the convention”. If you can think of a better collective noun for them, let me know. Anyhoo, the following smear was published in Crikey yesterday:

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Tomorrow ends Victoria’s ban on genetically manipulated (GM) food crops — and following widespread media exposure of the putative health and environmental hazards of GM food, chief scientist Gustav Nossal will be joined by three scientists for a media conference to brief journalists on “Which concerns [about GM food crops] are the most justified? Which risks can be managed and which can’t?”

Yet tomorrow’s briefing is “vested interests masquerading as public interest science” claims Greenpeace spokesperson Louise Sales. Comprising scientists who campaigned in support of lifting the bans, it was organised by the Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC), which claims itself “free of bias”.

But absent are independent scientists who warn of dangers of GM food: biochemist and nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton OAM; or medical scientist Professor Stephen Leeder; or epidemiologist Dr Judy Carman; or crop research scientist Dr Maartan Stapper. There are many.

Media Manager Lyndal Gully told Crikey in an email:

“There was no attempt to line up a panel with a particular GM viewpoint… [but] if scientists on the panel are more likely to end up arguing with each other rather than answering journalists’ questions, then there is a good chance that the science (that either side is trying to communicate) will be lost in the story.”

Gene Ethics director Bob Phelps said the selected scientists “are speaking way outside their area of scientific expertise.” But AusSMC CEO Susannah Eliot said the panel was chosen because “they have done the research and have the knowledge-base, and they are happy to be grilled by the media.”

One panellist, Dr TJ Higgins, is CSIRO’s co-inventor of the ill-fated GM field pea, abandoned because it caused lung-damage when fed to mice. His published claims that “there isn’t a single piece of evidence that [GM food is] any less safe than conventional food” reportedly prompted the ire of environmental scientist Dr Brian John, who branded these claims “a lie.” Experimental biologist Dr Arpad Puzstai also saidMost of Dr Higgins’ comments are factually incorrect… the final refuge of the incompetent.”

Critics of second panelist Dr Chris Preston claim his published reviews ignore negative studies. Professor Rainer Mosenthin reportedly said Preston’s methods should be disregarded as they “have limited scientific value.”

And third panelist Professor Rick Roush reportedly failed to disclose his research funding by GM companies. Allegedly as a result, Science journal revised its disclosure policy, as it is recognised that industry-funded research tends to be much more industry-favourable than independent research.

Accusations don’t amount to guilt — and many anti-GM-food scientists also face public mud-slinging (including from some on this panel). This is the problem, says AusSMC’s CEO Susannah Eliot. “The issue is so polarised it gets tricky to select a panel. Many scientists are happy to discuss the issues privately but aren’t willing to speak publicly because they don’t want to be labelled as pro- or anti-GM.”

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Postscript:

Professor Rick Roush said today:

“We know that eggs and nuts can be harmful to people — there is no evidence GM foods can be.”

Obviously Professor Roush missed this. And this.

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February 14, 2008

Modesty prevents him*

Filed under: art,books & writing — Kath @ 5:22 pm

Okay, I’m gonna to do something that’s frowned upon within the interwebs. I’m gonna out a psuedonymous blogger.

The Republic of Moreland’s ‘Leonaardo’ is actually — ta-da-da-da — the painter Robert Hollingworth!

Don’t know Robert’s art? You may know his words. Robert’s a terrific writer. Last night I went to the launch of his latest book, They Called Me The Wildman, at Readings in Carlton. Published by Murdoch Books, the book’s publicity blurb reads thus:

They Called Me the Wildman is historian and artist Robert Hollingworth’s captivating reconstruction of Swedish-born naturalist Henricke Nelsen’s solitary life. Henricke lived on a mountain in Victoria’s Tallarook Ranges in the 1860s. Robert Hollingworth has written Henricke’s life story in the form of a prison diary. No imaginary work could arrange a better cast of characters than this meticulously researched story.

Never mind the blurb (and Robert insists he’s not a historian — even though the book is based on historical records). I can tell you it’s a terrific read. I read it in manuscript stage, and ’twas one of those page-turners that keep me up into the wee hours. And I don’t even tend to read this kind of genre. I promise you it was authentic and moving and wondrous. It hit me right here:

*pounds heart*

Now, it’s in hard-cover, beautifully bound, with gorgeous paperstock and old illustrations. It’s a fine object as well as a wonderful read. If you buy one as a present it will be treasured, I promise.

You can listen to Leonaardo talk about it on ABC Radio National.

Local and or general

I’ve decided to try and incorporate more indigenous plants in my plans for the garden. This started off as a way to encourage local frogs into our pond and grew from there. It’s not that I plan to get rid of everything else, just to inform myself about what the indigenous possibilities might be. Towards this I was planning on going to a talk on indigenous plants of Moreland at Coburg library recently.

Alas, like most good intentions it was lost somewhere between the coffee breaks and urgent internet-browsing. Luckily Ceres has a range of plants indigenous to Merri Creek and surounding areas and recently I discovered (only in the virtual sense so far) the Victorian Indigenous Nurseries Cooperative (VINC) at Fairfield which looks like it would be worth a real-life visit. The Keelbundora Indigenous Nursery at Latrobe Uni also looks very interesting.

This morning however while indulging in the sort of internet-surfing that meant I missed the original talk in the first place, I found Gardening with Indigenous Plants in Moreland, a 16 page booklet produced for Moreland City Council by Merri Creek management committee with an extensive list of plants and trees complete with illustrations.

Armed with this and the Moreland Nature Strip Beautification Guidelines how can I go wrong?

Trash and treasure

Filed under: Brunswick,Coburg,environment — Faithh @ 1:44 pm

Yippeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Here in the southern states of the Greater Republic of Moreland (Brunswick, that is….) the annual hard waste collections are about to start. I’m just as excited as those who engage in Boxing-Day-stampedes and am busy clearing space in the shed, down the side of the house, on the roof and under the house while my husband is threatening to host a support group for men-whose-wives-trawl-the-streets-and-laneways-and-drag-home-junk.

Mind you it’s not all mindless consumption; I am planning to get rid of a few things. Last year we watched bemused as one of our neighbours scoured our castoffs and triumphantly bore away a rotting compost bin. On the other hand it’s the discarded, and gorgeously rusted, corrugated iron from their back verandah that now adorns the front of our home-office. As they say, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Maybe even more so when that man is a woman.

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