Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Genetically Modified Crops Grown For 20 Years In Australia but we haven't turned into mutants yet
But nothing will convince the professional alarmists
Organic farming and genetic modification may not seem like a natural fit, but an independent researcher says a 20-year safety track record should be trusted by everyone, including organic farmers.
Peak industry organisation CropLife Australia commissioned a report into the impact of genetically modified (GM) crops in Australia since their introduction in 1996 showing a 23 percent reduction in herbicide and insecticide use.
The report by agricultural researchers PG Economics also found the more efficient, higher yield GM crops increased farmer incomes by $1.37 billion, and lowered carbon emissions by 71.5 million kg.
Curtin University agriculture biotechnology professor Michael Jones told The Huffington Post Australia the report was the first in-depth look into GM impacts in Australia and should end the debate about its safety.
"There were initially concerns about GM creating increased allergens or super weeds but now that we've got 20 years of scientific investigation we should be comfortable calling it safe," Jones told HuffPost Australia.
"I think the organic farming industry should see GM as perfect, organic crops. Really, all the food we eat is GM, that's what traditional plant breeding and animal breeding is -- it just takes a big longer."
Jones said the everyday person was interacting with GM products daily and fear mongering about the potential for it to cause increased cancer rates or destroy native plants never eventuated.
"Virtually all the cotton we grow in Australia is GM and all the cotton we import from places like Pakistan and India is pretty much GM also.
"If you go into a department store and you buy sheets for your bed or cotton underwear, it's all from GM cotton.
"Similarly if go down to the beach for fish and chips, chances are it's fried in GM cottonseed oil.
"Then we grow almost no soybean and very little maize and the countries we import from about 90 percent GM.
"We've been eating GM for a very long time and it's no problem."
Yet GM Free Australia Alliance spokesperson Jessica Harrison told news.com.au that Australians felt they didn't believe genetic modification was proven safe and many didn't know whether their processed food had GM ingredients in it.
"Corn is 90 per cent GM in the U.S, and if that's used in Australian-manufactured biscuits or bread, no labelling is required," Harrision said. "The government doesn't believe we deserve to know."
Emeritus professor of public health and community medicine at the University of Sydney Stephen Leeder said the risks of GM food remained an open question. "No one can say with confidence that it has no effect."
"A lot of GM crops are engineered to tolerate 10 times the normal level of herbicides. Those herbicides have been demonstrated to be carcinogenic. Resistance is bred into the weeds so you need new herbicides or higher doses to keep them at bay," he told news.com.au.
But there may be a broader environmental benefit from GM crops compared to conventional farming.
Monsanto Australia New Zealand managing director Tony May told HuffPost Australia he was especially proud of the reduction in chemicals needed for GM crops.
"Reduction in pesticide use is an issue that's very close to my heart because came from a cotton farming background. To reduce amount of pesticides is quite amazing because it cuts down on farmer exposure and also the amount going into the environment."
Yes, Australia was invaded by British, says Malcolm Turnbull
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has agreed that the colonisation of Australia by British settlers could be described as an "invasion", but has distanced himself from the idea of a treaty with Indigenous Australians in the near term.
Mr Turnbull was asked if he accepted Australia had been invaded, a divisive term in the history wars over how to characterise the arrival of the First Fleet from 1788 onwards.
"Well, I think it can be fairly described as that and I've got no doubt obviously our first Aboriginal Australians describe it as an invasion," the Prime Minister said.
"But, you know, you are talking about an historical argument about a word. The facts are very well known. This country was Aboriginal land. It was occupied by Aboriginal people for tens of thousands of years – 40,000 years."
But Mr Turnbull distanced himself from pursuing a treaty – a formal agreement between the government and Indigenous people that would involve legal outcomes – at least in the near future.
He said such a proposal could inhibit progress towards constitutional recognition of Indigenous people. The government has signalled it will hold a referendum on that question in 2017.
"We have to be very careful that you don't set hares running that undermine the real goal, which is to secure overwhelming consensus of Australians, overwhelming majority for constitutional recognition of our first Australians," Mr Turnbull said.
He noted that he spoke from bitter personal experience, having chaired the Australian Republican Movement during its 1999 referendum loss on Australian independence from Britain.
The comments, which are likely to draw ire from conservatives who have railed against any "black arm band" view of history, came after Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on Monday indicated he would support a treaty.
Speaking on ABC TV's Q&A program, Mr Shorten said he supported a debate after the referendum – expected in 2017 – arguing practical and symbolic recognition was needed.
"Do I think we need to move beyond just constitutional recognition to talking about what a post-constitutional recognition settlement with indigenous people looks like? Yes, I do," the Labor leader said.
"I do think there needs to be a discussion about should you have a treaty or shouldn't you have a treaty. What I'm not going to do is give all the answers on one spot at one time."
Asked if Australia's colonisation by the British amounted to an invasion, Mr Shorten said Indigenous Australians had been "dispossessed."
He agreed Indigenous citizens would consider it an invasion. "If I was Aboriginal, I wouldn't exactly call it a welcome, would you?" he said. "This was Aboriginal land. It is, it always will be."
Speaking in Perth on Tuesday, Mr Shorten said the Prime Minister's criticism was "complete rubbish". "Mr Turnbull shouldn't politicise this issue and furthermore ... this nation has been grappling with the equal treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders since 1788 and we haven't got it right yet."
He said he would consider a "settlement" process after the referendum to improve living outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
"I'm up for the conversation on a treaty. What I am not going to do is impose paternalistic, top-down solutions.
In February, Mr Shorten left open the option of a treaty with Indigenous Australians.
Similar agreements have been signed with indigenous peoples in countries including the United States, Canada and New Zealand.
The Greens have called on Mr Turnbull to consider a treaty process alongside the referendum
Rent in Australia is falling at a record pace
As I predicted. With new apartment buildings springing up like mushrooms it had to happen
The cost to rent a property in Australia is falling at the fastest pace on record.
According to the latest Rent Review Snapshot released by Corelogic, weekly rental rates fell by 0.3% to $486 across Australia’s capitals in the 12 months to May, marking the fastest annual decrease seen dating back to when the survey was first created in 1996.
Median rental rates stood at $489 per week for houses, and $469 per week for units. Over the past year, rental rates for houses slid by 0.7%, offsetting a 1.6% increase for units.
The reason for the decrease in the headline index is that there are more houses for rent than units across the country.
"The current annual decline in house rents is the largest on record, while annual unit rental growth is occurring at its slowest pace on record," said Cameron Kusher, research analyst at Corelogic.
By location, there were mixed performances across the country with a distinct divergence between non-mining and mining capitals.
"Over the past 12 months, rental rates have increased in Sydney (+0.9%), Melbourne (+2.3%), Hobart (+3.7%) and Canberra (+0.1%)," said Kusher.
"Rental rates have fallen over the past year in Brisbane (-0.9%), Adelaide (-0.9%), Perth (-8.8%) and Darwin (-16.9%).
The table below, supplied by CoreLogic, reveals the monthly, quarterly and annual change in rental rates by capital city.
With rents falling and property prices continuing to push higher, rental yields also plumbed the lowest level on record.
"At a combined capital city level, gross rental yields were recorded at 3.3% for houses in May 2016 and at 4.2% for units," notes Kusher.
"With rental rates falling over the past year and an expectation that falls will continue, we may see further compression of yields over the coming months however, this will be dependent on growth in home values as well as the direction of rental rates," he said.
In light of this, Kusher believes that capital growth "will continue to be a much more important factor for property investors than rental returns".
That’s something that has received plenty of attention recently given the view expressed by some analysts that the increased investor involvement in the housing market is driving house prices higher, particularly in Sydney and to a lesser degree Melbourne.
"The low yield profile across Australia’s two largest cities, which are also the cities that attract the largest investment demand, suggests that most recent investors, despite the low mortgage rate settings, are likely to be utilising a negative gearing strategy to offset their cash flow losses against their taxable income," says Kusher.
The charts below look at the annual change in rental growth, overlaid against current rental yields for both houses and apartments. CoreLogic also breaks down the results by capital city.
Though higher than other asset classes, yields across all capitals are continuing to fall at present.
And that trend looks set to continue, according to Kusher, providing a boon to those looking for a property to rent.
"With housing supply, and subsequently rental supply, continuing to rise as growth in wages and the population continues to slow, it is unlikely we will see a turnaround in rental markets in the short-term," says Kusher.
"As a result, renters will continue to have more choice and may actually be able to move into superior rental accommodation for similar or even lower costs."
Something to consider, and not only for potential renters but also those looking to invest.
Big agent commissions from developers emerge to handle Australia’s apartment glut
You'd be a mug to buy a new home unit at the moment
We seem to be arriving at the final stage of the apartment bubble, which is where all concerned have pedalled out over the cliff edge but are unaware that the ground has disappeared, and are held aloft by pure hard sell.
A couple of brochures landed in my inbox a few days ago offering “incredible developer incentives” for new apartment blocks in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
The first, in Racecourse Road North Melbourne, developed by Alpha14 Property Group, offered 8 per cent upfront commission, $10,000 “channel bonus”, developer to pay stamp duty, developer to pay $5,000 FIRB application fee.
That last bit is a clue to main market for these units: the brochures are being widely distributed, but especially in China, and the commissions are especially aimed at Chinese sales agents.
The “incredible developer incentives” are available to anyone, including Australian financial advisers looking to replace the investment trailing commissions that were banned two years ago the FoFA legislation.
But most Australian investors and advisers are wary about the apartment market these days and happy to watch.
The key market now is China, where there is an apparently endless supply of money looking to leave the country and an industry of sales agents making serious money from the upfront commissions paid by Australian unit developers.
For example, another block of units in Quay Street Brisbane, developed by Abacus Property Group, and comprising 78 one and two bedroom apartments with “stunning city and river views” from $352,000 per unit, is offering 8 per cent upfront sales commissions. That means an agent can make close to $30,000 selling a single unit, which truly is an “incredible incentive”.
The Banksia New Quay apartments in Melbourne’s Docklands, developed by MAB Corporation, is offering upfront commissions, plus $48,000 for agents to use “to either discount the purchase price and or upgrades on all remaining apartments”.
There’s nothing illegal about big sales commissions for apartments sold to investors, unlike for financial products, which were banned in 2014.
So if an adviser sells a fund that invests in residential units, no commissions of any sort — described as “conflicted remuneration” — are allowed. But if he or she sells a unit directly an 8 per cent upfront commission can be paid.
That’s because the legislation only covers financial products, not property. But should commissions paid on sales of units also be described as “conflicted remuneration”?
That depends on whether the agent is clearly described as a sales person or some kind of independent adviser.
The reason financial product commissions were banned is that the advisers who were selling them were presenting themselves as independent when in fact they were really in the business of selling. It was too late to change the labelling and perception of the financial planning industry, so sales commissions had to be banned and the focus of the industry turned to client benefit only.
However everyone knows real estate agents are sales people, and that they are getting a commission to sell a house. If you are buying a property, you know the agent is selling it to you on commission, not giving you independent advice on what to buy.
In fact, most sales — including advertising in this newspaper — involve some kind of commission.
According to the website localagentfinder.com.au, the average real estate sales commission across Australia is 2.22 per cent, with the lowest in South Australia (2.07 per cent) and the highest in Tasmania (3.26 per cent).
That’s the problem with the 8 per cent commissions offered by developers of new apartment blocks — simply that they are so much more than normal real estate sales commissions.
The question is whether at some point the size of a commission tips it over into a conflict.
At the very least it indicates that the buyers of these units are paying too much and are going to lose money: in effect they are rewarding the agent for selling to them because the commission is embedded in the price and once paid, it’s lost.
It also explains why there’s a huge oversupply of apartments in Australia now.
Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here