GMO Pundit vs MADGE in the Monthly Argument

A month ago, our own David Tribe participated in a debate on GE foods against two members of Mothers Are Demystifying Genetic Engineering (MADGE Australia). The debate was hosted by The Monthly Argument, and the statement debated was “GM crops are good for us.” Arguing in the negative was Madeleine Love and Jessica Harrison from MADGE, and arguing in the affirmative was David Tribe and David McMullen, the author of Bright Future. The videos were just posted online, so let’s have a watch and comment about the debate, shall we?

Part 1:

Part 2:


(For those with short attention spans)

I have watched most of it already, and I’ll have some comments to make soon enough, but rather than push the discussion one way off the bat, let’s see what everyone here thinks. What was good, bad, stuck out, or should have stuck out in this debate? Was it productive, did anybody win or lose?


  1. MADGE are famous for pasting billboards everywhere (in that venue) a picture of a nude female human who has six breasts. Alongside highways.
    Gives you a sense of the quality of argumentation from that side of things.

  2. Eric – wow. That’s hyperbole to the max.
    Mary – from discussion of the recent case of the Australian farmer who allegedly had his organic certification taken away because he had part of his canola crop pollinated with genetically engineered canola pollen – it seems that their rules are zero tolerance unlike in the US which are process based.
    I’m watching the videos now. First comment – “economics of a future post capitalist society” this is useful how? And – “science degree” topic please?

  3. David’s even more handsome in video than in his pictures, but I might be biased because of the Australian accent 🙂 he’s quite professorly. I am having a hard time understanding a lot of the audio, though, particularly for the MADGE ladies.

  4. Eric is right about the billboard campaign that MADGE did about 7-8 years ago. The person in charge was different, but I wonder what they feel about the history of their organization and the use of sexist advertising. I totally forgot that MADGE did it, although it was 4 breasts to make the woman appear to be a cow. But not only was it morally wrong for an ad, it was also completely inaccurate – putting even 100 human genes into a cow to alter its milk does not make it a human being.

  5. Yeah the room was echoey. I’m surprised that they didn’t just grab an audio feed from the microphones that they used up front – that would get the best audio supposing they were being used all the time. Next time David participates in one of these we’ve got to get Frank on a plane to join in down there in Aus.

  6. Shame that MADGE is such a misnomer – Mothers going around demystifying GE seems like such a good idea, shame they’ve hijacked the concept.

  7. Anastasia, here it is in brief:
    “The posters, designed by former singer Alannah Currie, show a milking machine attached to the womans breasts in a reference to AgResearchs plans to use cows as living factories to manufacture proteins that may help to cure diseases such as multiple sclerosis.”

  8. Yeah, I know there must be some regulations. But it would help to understand the arguments (and the validity thereof) if I knew more about their rules.
    That said, what I watched looked like SS,DC to me (same s#*t, different continent) to me.
    I’d also be curious to know about the composition of the audience. In the climate and vaccines discussions I’ve attended, these types of things have brought out the well-informed/already supporter types, and the hard-core denier types. There’s been low representation of the really undecided.

  9. Someone in my family has MS, and know what, there isn’t much I wouldn’t do to a cow for a cure, or even a better treatment. I don’t know what I find more disturbing, their cheap shock poster or their braindead ‘reason’ for making it.

  10. Greg,
    As a nation, New Zealand has the most rabid anti-biotech contingent in the entire world. They hold a world record in how many farmers’ fields of corn have been destroyed due to trace amounts of GM content. (Although, France holds the world record of how many field trials have been destroyed.)
    Interestingly, NZ biotech tends to concentrate on modified animals, and I would not be surprised to learn that they’re more advanced in that sector than anywhere else.
    A few years back I had a brief layover at a NZ airport on the way to Melbourne. Like nearly any other airport, it’s partially a shopping mall. Nearly every store advertised its wares as ‘clean’, ‘pure’, ‘natural’, etc., everything from booze to woolen sweaters, a saturation of ‘green’ to the point of nausea.
    Another aspect of this insular nation — last I looked, NZ leads the world in per-capita gun crime. I would not be in the least surprised to learn that someone there is marketing ‘green’ guns. Or at least, green ammunition. Antimony instead of lead is gaining traction as part of an environmentally-responsible approach to killing people.

  11. Hi guys
    I was there at thee event and you are correct, same old arguments. Not sure about the audience, but Madeline Love from MADGE and me had a short conversation about the event on the TechNyou blog which might give you some insight about the audience see
    And yes Australia’s organic industry has a zero tolerance to GM, and the WA farmer did lose his organic accreditation because of contamination. The organic farmer is now suing his neighbour
    Jason Major
    Manager, TechNyou, University of Melbourne

  12. Eric,
    Many years ago, when GM crops were in their infancy, the threats of lawsuits for ‘contamination’ were far more rife than today. Likely the technology providers saw these threats as shrinking their market in the short term, but they would not respond. An open offer to defend all growers of GMOs would likely have resulted in increased market share. Now, with GM crops being grown in all venues which value a scientific approach to decision-making, this notion is past its sell-by date.

  13. re: Monsanto defending the lawsuit, unless Monsanto have changed their position in the last 2-3 weeks they are not helping defend the GM farmer in anyway – at least that is what the media were reporting.
    TechNyou, University of Melbourne

  14. Given the rate at which GM crops were adopted (astronomical) I doubt loss of market in the short term was ever much of an issue – I was actually under the impression that Monsanto had made a statement saying they weren’t defending the GM farmer despite claims to the contrary when the story first broke (which I am putting down to someone wanting to portray themselves in a David vs Goliath type role – it’s worked before for global celebrity status) – sort of a shame as the contamination in question in Australia is silly even by comparison to run of the mill hand wringing over contamination (crop residue of an unrelated crop is apparently sufficient, which makes zero sense to me (the other complaints at least have a few toes still in the world of the real)

  15. But you only linked gun murders – New Zealanders could be either spectacularly bad shots, or bulletproof.
    Although I have to admit I’d be very surprised if NZ ranked high in any sort of gun crime other than perhaps those involving gun crimes in spectacular scenery, or near sheep.

  16. Eric said “As a nation, New Zealand has the most rabid anti-biotech contingent in the entire world. They hold a world record in how many farmers’ fields of corn have been destroyed due to trace amounts of GM content. (Although, France holds the world record of how many field trials have been destroyed.)”
    That is too bad. I hope noone throws pies at me when I give my talk here in New Zealand, sponsored by the Royal Society.

  17. Pam,
    Looking forward to your talk, and no need to fear the pies — New Zealanders are a civil lot. You might get some irrational questions, but I’m sure you’re used to answering those.

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