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Scientist Upset At Being Misrepresented By Greens

Australian Scientist Upset At Being Misrepresented By Greens
Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons has misunderstood the content and relevance of a recent Australian study on canola to New Zealand, says one of the study's co-authors.

Associate Professor Rick Roush expressed surprise at the Greens' comments, and surprise that the Greens had apparently not read the original paper.

“The paper Jeanette Fitzsimons refers to was actually published in the 28 June issue of the journal Science, not in the New Scientist as implied in the Green Party's press release.

"I don't normally even read the New Scientist, which is not a science journal, but a popular magazine about science, and one that I find to be less than generally balanced on the GM issue", said Dr Roush. "I am thus surprised that the Greens have made claims about our science without actually reading it".

"I have no interest in New Zealand politics, but I am not thrilled that our research has been misrepresented by politicians in an effort to gain some advantage."

"Jeanette Fitzsimons has also misunderstood the science. First, canola is recognized around the world as one of the crops most likely to spread pollen. The great majority of other crops, including soybeans, wheat, cotton and maize, are known to have much less dispersal of pollen", Dr Roush noted.

"So far as I can find, canola production isn't a significant industry in New Zealand, so the study is pretty much irrelevant there."

"There also wasn't any surprise that we found canola pollen at 3 kilometers. Organic farmers, Greenpeace, and green politicians had been predicting that the pollen flow would extend for tens of kilometers. If anything, the surprise was that pollen flow was so little", Roush added.

"The average level of pollen flow in our study was 0.009%, and even the highest level was 0.07%, both of which are far lower than the 0.5% upper limit for accidental mixing recently passed on a narrow margin in the EU Parliament with support from Greenpeace. That means that even conventional farmers have nothing to fear from pollen flow in canola."

"With respect to organic growers", Roush responded, "I phoned a list of supposed organic canola farmers provided yesterday by Biological Farmers of Australia, and could not find one that was actually producing any organic canola. After repeated unsuccessful efforts over the last two years to find and talk with organic canola growers, I doubt there is any significant organic canola industry in Australia."

Ms Fitzsimons also claimed that because the Australian study did not involve planting GE canola, the study shows a lot can be learned from studying conventional crops, as well as from lab research.

Roush replied that "Of course scientists have learned a lot of relevant information for GM crops by studying other systems, but you simply cannot understand the environmental benefits and risks of GM crops without studying the real thing in the field"

"Insect resistant GM cotton is now reducing insecticide use and human poisonings in China by some 75-80%. You couldn't find that out from lab studies or studies on non-GM cotton", concluded Roush.


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