Update 29 June see outcome below
ABC MULTIMEDIA SPECIAL: "GENE WARS: The race to own our food"
ABC REPORTED: "This special report by the ABC News Online Investigative Unit and ABC Lateline program looks into the future of food production here in Australia and around the world. We talk to the major players in agriculture and science, experts in intellectual property and farmers."
The "multimedia" presentation includes an "infographic" titled "Corporate Control" that suggests that "The worldwide market for genetic material is dominated by a handful of multinational companies."
The "multimedia" presentation includes an "infographic" titled "Food for thought" indicates 1405 patents for drought-resistant genes between 1994 and 2009.
1. The "infographic" titled "Corporate Control" includes a graph on the right hand size that incorrectly portrays the number of multinational companies in the market for genetic material. This gives a misleading impression that only 10 companies are involved. The source paper Public biotech 2007—the numbers by Stacy Lawrence & Riku Lähteenmäki ( Nature Biotechnology Volume 26 No 7 pp. 753-762) in Table 7 lists 429 public biotech companies. This hardly constitutes a "handful". The graph only considers sales and does not examine other factors such as research expenditure, employees or operating income. Considering employees shows more workers are employed by mid, small and micro-capitalised companies than by 10 large capitalised companies. The graphic should be amended to indicate the total number of companies involved.
2. The "infographic" titled "Food for thought" indicates 1405 patents for drought-resistant genes between 1994 and 2009. The source cited is Patent Lens. We are unable to replicate the number of patents claimed in the graph. A full text search of the words "drought-resistant" at Patent Lens yields 913 US patents granted. Does the ABC's graph include granted patents only or does it also include applications? Are the patents limited to the USA or other countries also included. In the accompanying report "Future of Food now a global battle" the number of patents is suggested to be "over 900".
Can ABC clarify the method used to establish the number of patents and print this along side the graphic, so that users can repeat the results?
3. As 7.00pm 13 April, 2010 the video slide show titled "Multimedia: In the lab" was not functioning. UPDATE 14 April 8:40 am: This presentation now appears to be working.
4. The presentation focuses on drought resistant genes, however future climate change may bring more rainfall to some regions. Future climate change will result in winners and losers as climate varies regionally. This aspect was not covered in the report and as such it lacks balance.
OUTCOME: Received 29 June 2010
COMMENT: Graphics should be properly labelled with precise source data and meaningful descriptions. Parameters used to mine third party data should be provided to allow results to be repeated.