Inquiry and understanding – not fear and idealogy

    11 September 2012

    11 September 2012 (Canberra) – The use of misinformation to elicit fear and cast aspersions on the integrity of the CSIRO and federal regulators is grubby, intellectually weak politicking. The CSIRO is an organisation committed to the pursuit of understanding and knowledge, whose name is associated with good science around the world.

    CropLife Australia’s CEO, Matthew Cossey today said, “The ongoing campaigns of anti-biotechnology organisations have reached new lows.

    “Reports commissioned by the discredited ‘Safe Food Foundation’ released today constitute ideological spin as opposed to independent science. Today’s comments have been made in an attempt to undermine scientific trials of a technology to which this professional activist organisation is dogmatically and ideologically opposed.

    “There are those who seek to exploit the fear of the unknown and there are those who try instead to understand it. Scientific research, like that undertaken extensively by CSIRO, is a technique for understanding the benefits and impacts of new technologies. Research should be allowed to be conducted using scientific data to arrive at a conclusion that will protect and maybe even benefit the human condition, without the influence of irrational fear campaigns.

    “CSIRO has always been committed to the protection of human health and safety, in the pursuit of discoveries that could improve our way of life. It is through their thorough, hard work that we have inventions that have dramatically changed and improved our daily existence, like solar hot water and Wi-Fi.

    “The very point of this research is to thoroughly test the potential effects of the new technologies on human health and the environment, which makes the criticisms somewhat ironic.

    Mr Cossey expressed his concern at the potential implications of this campaign, “We cannot ignore the consequences of denying access to these innovations.”

    Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer amongst Australians and it is largely preventable. Research indicates that it is incredibly difficult for the average Australian to get enough of the right types of fibre. By providing high levels of resistant starch in a dietary staple, the wheat that CSIRO is currently working on can help to dramatically reduce incidences of bowel cancer.

    “We have already seen the effects of scaremongering campaigns such as this on a global scale. For example, Vitamin A deficiency causes serious health problems for millions of people around the world. Golden Rice, which has been genetically improved to produce β-carotene, could more than halve the disease burden of Vitamin A deficiency in developing countries.

    “Unfortunately Golden Rice has not yet reached fields, let alone plates, anywhere in the world due to a particularly ferocious scare campaign run by anti-science activists. In India, it is estimated that Golden Rice could help reduce the burden of Vitamin A deficiency by up to 59 per cent, or save the lives of up to 40,000 kindergarten children each year.

    “It is important to thoroughly identify any risks posed by new technologies. This is a principle at the heart of the work of CSIRO, Australian regulators and the nation’s plant science industry. However, it would be truly disastrous if CSIRO and the OGTR were forced to react to misinformation and manufactured fear, and make their decisions based on anything other than science,” Mr Cossey concluded.