Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Expert Opinion

Experts pick apart the veracity of claims made in research papers and the media.

GM Farmer Wins Landmark Court Case in Western Australia


The Western Australian Supreme Court has dismissed an organic farmer’s claims for damages from his neighbour’s genetically-modified canola crop, which caused him to lose organic certification for more than half of his property for almost 3 years.

“The decision will give farmers surety that they can choose the crops they grow. The outcome is not about the safety of GM crops; it is more about the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia’s organic certification, which has a zero tolerance threshold for contamination in broadacre crops.

“We hope that the NASAA policy might be reviewed and brought in line with similar policies around the globe to support farmers wishing to grow crops for their niche markets. GM crops can be consistent with organic farming.

Federal Budget 2014-15


Experts address how the latest announcements will impact on research, health and science.

While a $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund will provide additional funding for medical research, the Budget has some grim news for science. The Australian Research Council will see funding reduced by $74.9 million over 3 years, and savings of $111.4 million will be made to the CSIRO budget over 4 years. The Budget cuts also include the Defence Science and Technology Organisation ($120 million), Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation ($27.6 million, and Australian Institute of Marine Science ($7.8 million) – as well as Cooperative Research Centres program ($80 million).

National Commission of Audit’s recommendations for scientific research

The National Commission of Audit has suggested a major overhaul of the way scientific research is carried out in Australia, including greater government control over the work undertaken by CSIRO and abolishing the Cooperative Research Centre Association.


The Hon Tony Staley is Chairman of the CRC Association

“I can't for a minute believe that Government will take on this recommendation.

Cooperative Research Centres have very clearly given the Australian taxpayers outstanding value for money.

It is very interesting that the Commissioners have commented in making this recommendation that the ARC should take on longer funding periods. That's one of the features that has made CRCs so successful - seven years of funding to let researchers get on with the job.

Effectiveness of Flu Drug Questioned

A Cochrane review of the effectiveness and side-effects of the drug Tamiflu raises critical questions around the future of government stockpiling of such drugs for use in an influenza pandemic.

An earlier paper published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine suggests that, if patients were NOT on neuraminidase inhibitors (i.e. Tamiflu) there was a 9.2% death rate (959/10,431) but if they were given Tamiflu the death rate was slightly higher at 9.7% (1825/18,803). Yet the conclusion was the opposite of this. They concluded that neuraminidase inhibitors save lives.

Looking at comments on the Lancet paper in the BMJ (, the statistics that were done to reach that conclusion likely have major methodological issues.

IPCC Report on Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

Experts respond to the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Summary for Policymakers on “mitigating climate change, and the underlying technical, economic and institutional requirements”.


Professor Hugh Outhred is a Senior Visiting Fellow at the School of Electrical Engineering & Telecommunications at The University of New South Wales

Scientists Detect Echoes of the Big Bang


Astronomers have found evidence that the Universe underwent a period of rapid inflation in the very first moments of its existence. If confirmed, the tell-tale signature of gravitational waves in the afterglow of the Big Bang will open a new chapter in astronomy, cosmology and physics.

Astronomers using a radio telescope based at the South Pole have peered into the afterglow of the Big Bang and seen the tell-tale whirls of light (called B-modes) that are caused by ripples in space–time (indirect evidence for Einstein's final prediction, which is a big deal). These ripples (or gravitational waves) would normally be too small for us to detect, yet something has blown them up to the size of the entire Universe. That something is inflation, and this discovery is the first confirmation of this incredible, potential Nobel Prize-winning result.

IPCC Report on Climate Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability


Australian, UK and NZ experts respond to the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's summary report for policy-makers.

Dr Helen McGregor is a Research Fellow at the Research School of Earth Sciences at The Australian National University

Hazelwood coal fire health impacts

The Victorian government may announce a partial evacuation of residents from the smoke-affected town of Morwell. Australian experts comment on the health impacts of coal fires.

Are Chemicals in Food Packaging a Health Risk?

By Australian Science Media Centre

Synthetic chemicals used in the packaging, storage and processing of foods might be harmful to human health because most of these substances are not inert and can leach into the foods we eat.

While the topic of this paper is relatively interesting the title is needlessly alarmist, especially as the authors don’t present any actual data (either their own or from other studies) to back up their statements... There are a lot of possibilities and maybes in this article and while there may be a case for more research into some of the chemicals mentioned, particularly the endocrine disruptors, this article does not make it very well.

Australia Tops World Cancer Charts


The cancer agency of the World Health Organization has revealed that Australian men have the highest incidence of cancer in the world. The data reveals striking patterns of cancer in women and highlights that preventing and controlling breast and cervical cancers globally should be prioritised.

The Globocan 2012 figures show a rise in the incidence of cancer worldwide. In Australia we are seeing more people being diagnosed with cancer, largely due to our ageing population. More people are living to an age where cancer becomes more common. In addition, it probably reflects more men having PSA tests for prostate cancer.