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Sent To: Coordinator for the Sisters of St. Joseph
You probably will already have received a extensive note from Tony Trewavas
about your concerns about GMOs, in response to correspondence with Wayne
Parrott. Like Tony, I feel that your analogy to nuclear power is not a
good one, in which the risks of nuclear power are far greater than from
Still, as a person long opposed to nuclear power, the continuing increases
in global warming have forced me to reconsider my opposition. People are
not adopting solar power and energy conservation at a sufficiently high
rate. There are risks to the people near nuclear plants, but we must have
dozens or hundreds of people dying around the world in coal mining
accidents (there seem to be at least 3-6 per year in Australia, and I'd
guess that you'd never hear of them), not to mention from respiratory
diseases from coal and petroleum burning. I am told that global warming
will in my children's lifetime, if not mine, wipe out Australia's Great
Barrier Reef. I love the deserts of Australia, but I would much rather
sacrifice part of those deserts to store nuclear waste than to lose the
Great Barrier Reef.
Similarly, despite decades of work by people like myself, farmers around
the world have not been able to reduce their use of pesticides, not out of
ignorance, but because pests are resiliant. GMOs have proven their ability
to reduce pesticide use, especially Bt cotton. It is already clear that
the use of insect, virus and even herbicide resistant crops can reduce the
use of pesticides as long as they are used wisely.
Further, as Tony wrote, Bt corn has lower levels of potent mycotoxins than
conventionally grown corn. On that basis alone, I would prefer that my
children eat Bt corn rather than non-Bt corn. My particular area of
expertise is in the management of resistance to Bt, and I initially opposed
the registration of Bt corn in letters to the EPA. It is the data on
reductions on mycotoxin levels that changed my mind; the societal benefits
of the corn outweigh its risks.
This is not the application of the much discussed precautionary principle,
but falls closer to the way that we have to make most of our decisions
every day; risk reduction. What is the best way to minimise risks?
I urge you to reconsider your opposition to the use of GM crops, and in
particular to consider both the facts and the qualifications of those
raising arguments on both sides of the debate.