MannGram®: experts ousted by children

Published: Mon 12 Oct 2015 02:46 PM
MannGram®: experts ousted by children
Oct 2015
A blaze of publicity has been staged around an Orewa College year-13 pupil, a Ms Palmer, for her presentation "Synthetic Biology - Engineering the Future" (now viewable at <>), for which she has been awarded $10,000 by Russ Ballard and interviewed on Radio NZ by Kill Him.
The award has been made for asserting that 'synthetic biology' entails enormous benefits and is fundamentally different from the unpopular genetic manipulation (GM) which has been used to make GM-soya, GM-maize and a few other monocultures. These experimental organisms have never undergone proper safety testing, and some have damaged animals & humans.
The processes of inserting foreign genes - e.g bacterial &/or viral genes into plants or microbes - in the minor variant termed 'synthetic biology' are not very novel, and are similarly dangerous. It is impossible fully to foresee the properties of any viable organism that may result from such expts. Ms Palmer shows a diagram in her 'presentation' saying "here's an E. coli I designed ..." i.e an imagined concept is equated with reality (typical of gene-tampering fanatics). She even works in a 'terminator' ("kill switch") concept. At no point does she allude to any informed misgivings about 'synthetic biology'.
Having sceptically criticised gene-tampering since it was invented 4 decades ago, I have been more & more gravely concerned at the suppression of expertise, and now glorification of inexpert youth. It is no reflection on any high-school pupil to point out that she lacks the education & experience to assess gene-tampering competently.
A local news/advertisements freebie Hibiscus Matters censored my letter on this warped publicity, allowing me to say I would be only too glad to meet Ms Palmer to explain relevant molecular biology, but suppressing my signature sometime Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry, University of Auckland, as well as my recommendations The main sites for learning about these recent experiments are,, and
The 18 Sep issue of Hibiscus Matters featured a second uncritical story on Ms Palmer, showing a photo of her with the Governor-General and stating that 'judges {i.e Kill Him + who else?} commented on her in-depth knowledge of her topic, synthetic biology, which helped her answer probing questions'.
Why is it the business of this local freebie paper to propagandise for gene-tampering by glorifying an inexpert youth while suppressing references to reliable sources??
This is not the first detour into a strange pretence that gene-tampering can be satisfactorily appraised by teenagers. The Royal Commission on Genetic Manipulation appeared to have some difficulty getting rid of its (expanded) $6.2M budget; instead of helping to bring known experts to its hearings, or honouring its original promise to hold hearings in Auckland & Christchurch, the Eichelbaum Travesty announced 20 free youth trips to Wellington, selected on the basis of children's 500-word responses to the essay topic "What future does genetic modification have in New Zealand?" - speculative forecasting, rather than moral assessment.
This recent Ballard caper is only one of a trend in recent years. Girl-children have been held up as authorities over actual experts. In one oft-shown TV 'promo' a respected male geologist making a simple, clear scientific statement was downrarked by a girl c.7 y old cutely yelling "wait wait wait - what are you even on about?" Adult harpies will doubtless remain the spearhead of WimminsLib's attack - exemplified by Sandra Pearce Coney, Fiddler Bunkum, and Cartwright - on senior, accomplished men; but children are increasingly being deployed in this war.

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