By Daniel Bateman – The Cairns Post, 28 May 2015

RIPE CONVERSATION:m Professor James Dale with banana plants. Photo: QUT Marketing and Communication/Erika Fish.

Professor James Dale with banana plants. Photo: QUT Marketing and Communication/Erika Fish.


ORGANIC food advocates are upset.  A scientist who works on genetically modified bananas will lead a debate at James Cook University during ECOWeek.

Queensland University of Technology researcher Professor James Dale is the keynote speaker at JCU’s event next Friday. Prof Dale is leading a major international $5 million project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop bio-fortified bananas for East Africa. The field trials have been carried out at Innisfail.

Prof Dale will be participating in a debate about the pro’s and cons of genetically modified crops in Australian agriculture alongside speakers from the farming community and scientists working in natural resource management.

Community activist Geoff Holland said Prof Dale would merely be pushing the GM agenda, on behalf of Mr Gates, who has shares in GM company Monsanto. “Inviting James Dale to ECOWeek to give a keynote address at JCU is like inviting a Japanese whaler to discuss the merits of research on dead whales, or a climate sceptic to discuss whether anthropogenic global warming is really happening or not,’’ he said.

Daintree organic farmer and president of International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, Andre Leu, said he wanted a “balanced and open debate” about GM foods at the event.

A JCU spokesman said Prof Dale was a recognised expert in his field and the university was pleased an academic of his standing was available to participate in ECOWeek.

“Experts with different perspectives were invited to address the event as keynote speakers, but were either not available, or declined,’’ he said.

“ECOWeek presents an opportunity to discuss significant, and at times controversial, issues affecting the environment and social sustainability.’’

Prof Dale did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

Learn more about GMO Banana

No Gmo Banana Campaign