Friends of the Balaklava Community Library welcomed Emeritus Professor David Smyth as guest speaker to its first meeting for 2019 last Friday.
An audience of 35 heard David speak on plant and human genetics, and although he has retired from Monash University and settled in Riverton, he is still working from home and using facilities at Monash, in Melbourne.
David was originally from Salter Springs, and remembered the days of receiving parcelled children books from the State Library, sent out to many families by rail, but tiring of Biggles, requested alternatives, and received many books on science.
He eventually studied science at Adelaide University, and in due course did a PhD at ANU, followed by a stint in America studying plant genetics, and then human genetics in Scotland.
Dr Smyth also studied individual human chromosomes stained with a fluorescent substance when he was in Scotland in 1973.
Subsequently, he was employed to teach and research at Monash, which he did until 2010.
He studied the basics of plant genetics which determine how plants flowers form, and used as his model plant Arabidopsis, a small, easy to grow plant from the Northern Hemisphere.
Dr Smyth pointed out, that in his view, GMO (Genetically Modified) crops have met with opposition largely because of the monopoly of the process by big companies such as Monsanto, rather than any inherent problems with them.
In answer to queries, Dr Smyth explained genes could be created chemically in a test tube for insertion into plants, and that GMO foods still had a normal growth cycle.
Plants grown must be contained in a certain defined areas for testing, and GMO foods must not be made that could generate toxicity.
David elicited many questions, indicating the extent of interest in this subject and his ability to translate complex issues to everyday terms.
• Pictured: David Smyth talking to the audience at Friends of the Balaklava Community Library last Friday.