Tag Archives: debate

Debate@TheWaite: Agriculture contributes more to society than Medicine

RoseworthyThe cultivation and domestication of plants and animals for human food in ancient times led to the development of civilisations and ultimately modern society. These days, however, agriculture and the science behind it is apparently seen as less important than other human endeavours, in particular medicine (and medical research).

The Australian health care and social assistance industry is the largest employing sector in the country, providing work to 1.3 million people. In 2010, there were more than 10 times the number of graduates from health-related degrees than there were from agricultural and environmental sciences. It is also incredibly costly to support this sector, but these resources are needed to care for our aging population. Thanks largely to medical advances, our life expectancy is approximately 30 years longer than it was a century ago, but this also brings a raft of challenges with it.

Hippocrates, considered the ‘father’ of medicine, understood the importance of food and diet in maintaining good health, and surely, prevention is better than cure? In fact, agricultural science has pioneered many essential medical techniques – even the discovery of vaccination relied on dairy farming.

Agriculture contributes enormously to our GDP/export earnings, provides essential food and fibre, manages vast areas of our landscape and has helped shape our national identity. Despite this, no agriculturalists have ever been named ‘Australian of the Year’ in the 54 years since that award was established, compared to 10 people who worked in health/medical research (and no less than 14 sports people). Agriculture wasn’t mentioned in the National Research Priorities between 2002 and 2013, while health and medical research was front and centre.

If, as it seems, doctors are more esteemed and rewarded in our society than farmers, why do we feel less appreciative towards those who provide the daily food that keeps us alive and healthy than we do towards medical practitioners who we only see when we feel bad? Given that both farmers and doctors help us thrive, why do we attribute more status to one than the other?

Isn’t it time that agriculture, its products and those working within the sector, got the recognition, esteem and priority they deserve? Or does agriculture rightly deserve a smaller share of the limelight than medicine?

In this exciting and important debate, moderated by Mr Ian Doyle, six experts in two teams will argue for your vote.

For the affirmative team …

  • Dr Kim Ritman, Chief Scientist, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences
  • Professor Bob Seamark,  Flinders University and The Robinson Institute
  • Associate Professor Sven Anders, Resource Economics & Environmental Sociology
    The University of Alberta

For the negative team …

  • Associate Professor Mark Hutchinson, Discipline of Physiology, School of Medical Sciences, University of Adelaide
  • Professor Steve Wesselingh,  Executive Director, SA Health & Medical Research Institute
  • Dr Jennie Louise, School of Population Health, The University of Adelaide

DATE: Thursday 27 March 2014
TIME: 6.00pm – 8.30pm
PLACE: Lirra Lirra (Aroma Café), McLeod House,
Waite Road, Urrbrae
Finger food and cash bar provided
BOOKINGS: Register online at http://www.adelaide.edu.au/wri/events/debate/

The event will be tweeted live via @waiteresearch and podcasts of the Debate will be available via our debate webpage or via the Harvest radio program webpage.

Debate wrap up: Cutting Australia’s meat consumption by half would be better for us and the planet

On Thursday the 21st of March, more than 150 people attended one of our more controversial debates on whether Australians should reduce their meat consumption. For more information on the topic and speakers, please refer to our previous posts on the debate.

In our closest debate ever, the negative team were announced winners by our moderator, Dr Paul Wills, Director of the RiAus, after converting a pre-debate vote of 68% for the affirmative and 32% to the negative into a vote of 67% for the affirmative and 33% for the negative.

The Waite Research Institute would like to thank all involved in making our debate a success.

To listen to the debate please click here (approx 1.1 hour, 22 Mb, mp3 format)

To see a collection of tweets from the debate, click here

Debate wrap up for “Australian Cities Need Australian Farmers”

Last Thursday night 150 people braved the chilly night to see our Debate @ The Waite in the City on “Australian cities need Australian Farmers” held at the RiAus in Adelaide.

Thanks to the RiAus, we also had 25 people join us via livestream from all around Australia.

In a debate where the affirmative team had a clear advantage from the start, the negative team argued valiantly to persuade 10% of the audience to change their minds. However, this was not enough to prevent the affirmative team from winning on the night.

The WRI would like to thank our moderator, Dr Paul Willis from the RiAus and his staff for their help with running the evening, as well as out speakers for the evening:

Team for the Affirmative:
Prof Wayne Meyer, Chair of Natural Resource Science, University of Adelaide
Ms Deb Bain, CEO of FarmDay, Director of Australian Year of the Farmer, Farmer
Dr Doug Bardsley, Senior Lecturer, Geography, Environment and Population, University of Adelaide

Team for the Negative:
Prof Christopher Findlay, Executive Dean, Faculty of the Professions, University of Adelaide
Councillor David Plumridge AM, Deputy Lord Mayor, City of Adelaide
A Prof Wendy Umberger, School of Agriculture Food and Wine, University of Adelaide

To listen to the debate please click here (approx 1 hour, 22 Mb, mp3 format)

To see how the debate looked on Twitter please click here.

Innovation in agriculture has led to fast food. it’s time to slow down

The Waite Research Institute was pleased to be working with the Cooperative Research Centres Association to present a debate in celebration of the Australian Year of the farmer as part of their Collaborate Innovate 2012 conference this week. The debate topic was:

“Innovation in agriculture has led to fast food. It’s time to slow down”

Innovation has always been part of Australian agriculture. From the ‘stump-jump’ plough to Federation wheat, our early agriculturalists adapted, invented and experimented with technology and techniques to create a national economy largely dependent on food and fibre production, one that “rode on the sheep’s back”. Newer developments such as minimum tillage, precision agriculture and the application of genetics and genomics to animal and plant breeding have enabled our agricultural sector to feed approximately 60 million people annually.

However, Australia is now a mostly urban society, increasingly disconnected from food production. Australians are amongst the most obese in the world and a recent survey showed that 45 per cent of school students could not identify that everyday lunchbox items such as a banana, bread and cheese originated from farms. Concern for the environment is leading some consumers to reject food produced using technology-based methods.

Is it time for a ‘back to basics’ approach to reconnect Australians with food production? Has technology led to industrial agriculture and cheap food that is not understood or valued by consumers?

Or is continued investment in innovation the only hope for Australian agriculture to remain internationally competitive and feed an increasing global population with minimal impact on the environment?

Team for the affirmative

Sophie Thomson, Gardening consultant

Dr Rosemary Stanton, Nutritionist

Andre Ursini, Chef

Team for the negative

Professor Rob Lewis, Research manager

Professor Mark Tester, Plant scientist

Philip Bruem AM, Farmer


Dr Paul Willis, Director, Royal Institution of Australia (RiAus)

After an exciting and informative debate, the negative team where pronounced winners on the night!

To listen to the debate please click here (approx 58 minutes, 20 Mb, mp3 format)

To see how the debate looked on Twitter please click here .

The Waite Research Institute would like to thank all who contributed to making the event a success.

Wine debate wrap up

Our debaters: (L to R) Prof Vladimir Jiranek, Dr Dan Johnson, Prof Steve Tyerman, Mr Brian Croser AO, Dr Sue Bastian, Prof Barbara Santich

Our debate last week on the topic “The future of the Australian wine industry will be based on technology, not tradition” was a fantastic success attended by approximately 230 people on the night.

At the beginning of the evening the audience was split roughly 2:1 in favour of the proposition, that technology would be the basis of the Australian wine industry’s success in the future. All of our debaters argued their case passionately, however the negative team was unable to persuade the audience to change their minds and the affirmative team were declared winners.

To listen to the debate please click here (approx 55 minutes, 20 Mb, mp3 format)

To see how the debate looked on Twitter please click here.

For more information on the debaters, please see our previous post.

The Waite Research Institute would like to thank all who contributed to making our event a success.

Debate @ the Waite, 15th of March, 2012

“The future of the Australian wine industry

will be based on technology, not tradition”

Ensuring that Australia’s wine industry remains profitable, internationally competitive and sustainable into an uncertain future is a major challenge. The industry is under pressure from oversupply of fruit, the high Australian dollar and increasing competition from other ‘new-world’ wine producers.

The Australian wine industry is estimated to be worth $5 billion annually, with approximately 60% of our wines exported. Innovation has underpinned the growth of the Australian wine industry in recent decades, enabling the production of high-volume, value-for-money wines for export, optimising wine outcomes and increasing profitability.

How should the Australian wine industry position itself as consumers become increasingly discerning and wine-savvy? Does remaining competitive in a global market mean embracing any and every existing and emerging technology in both viticulture and winemaking?

Despite advances in technology though, winemaking remains essentially a natural biochemical process which humans have exploited and enjoyed for thousands of years. The basic tools – grapes, yeast, wooden barrels and presses – have remained the same throughout the ages.

Consumers at the premium/boutique end of the market are increasingly savouring the differences between wines, and seeking to know the unique ‘story’ of the wine they are drinking. The wider trend towards ethical consumption, sustainable production practices and reduced use of additives may also suggest that it’s time for a ‘back-to-basics’ approach.

This debate, moderated by Dr Paul Willis, RiAus, will explore these issues and many more, as six experts in two teams argue for your vote.

Will you vote for or against?

Team for the affirmative
Professor Steve Tyerman, School of Agriculture, Food & Wine, The University of Adelaide
Dr Dan Johnson, Managing Director, Australian Wine Research Institute
Professor Vlad Jiranek, School of Agriculture, Food & Wine, The University of Adelaide

Team for the negative
Mr Brian Croser, AO, Tapanappa winemaker
Professor Barbara Santich, School of History & Politics, The University of Adelaide
Dr Sue Bastian, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, The University of Adelaide

Thursday 15 March 2012
6:00pm – 8:30pm

Waite Campus
Lirra Lirra Cafe,
Waite Road, Urrbrae

Admission is free, but prior registration is essential as seats are strictly limited.
Go to http://debateatthewaite.eventbrite.com.au/

Free wine tasting and finger food provided

Debate @ The Waite, 3rd November 2011

Come and see two teams debate the topic:

Agriculture should be exempt from greenhouse gas reduction schemes

Ensuring that Australia’s agricultural industries remain profitable and productive while reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a major challenge.

About 20% of the total greenhouse gas emissions globally come from agriculture. Agricultural emissions are mainly methane and nitrous oxide which are much more potent that carbon dioxide. This means agriculture potentially contributes more to greenhouse gas emissions than other industries. In Australia, livestock is our third largest source of emissions, equal to transport, and make up about 70% of those from agriculture.
Reducing emissions from agriculture could contribute significantly to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. Does agriculture have an obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? If other sectors are included in reduction schemes such as the ‘carbon tax’, shouldn’t agriculture be included too? Could there be new business opportunities for rural communities with schemes to offset greenhouse gas emissions? What are the consequences for the environment if agricultural emissions are not reduced?
On the other hand, agriculture is based on variable and interacting biological systems. Is it even possible to monitor its greenhouse gas emissions accurately? Do we have enough knowledge now to reduce emissions from agriculture? Would reduction schemes decrease Australia’s international competiveness in food and fibre production, along with our export earnings? What would be the likely impact on the profitability of Australian farms?

Will you be for or against?

Affirmative Team
Prof Phil Hynd, Deputy Head, Animal and Veterinary Sciences, University of Adelaide
Dr Murray Unkovich, Lecturer in Soil Science, University of Adelaide
Mick Keogh, Executive Director, Australian Farm Institute

Negative Team
Prof Mike Young, Executive Director, The Environment Institute, University of Adelaide
Prof Wayne Meyer, Chair of Natural Resource Science, University of Adelaide
Prof Tony Peacock, Chief Executive, Cooperative Research Centres Association

Ian Doyle, President, Rural Media SA

When: Thursday 3rd November, 6.00 pm – 8.30 pm
Where: Lirra Lirra Cafe, Waite Campus, The University of Adelaide, Waite Rd, Urrbrae

Finger food provided. A cash bar will be open throughout the event

Admission free. Bookings essential

Register online at eventbrite or call 83036729

Download flyer