Recently we circulated Dr Arpad Pusztai's letter to Dr Ian Gibson in which Pusztai expertly dissected a number of claims made by Gibson during the UK parliamentary debate on GM of 5th May. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3741
In his speech Gibson, himself a biologist and Chairman of the parliamentary Science and Technology Committee, authoritatively dismissed concerns over GM. Pusztai's letter showed Gibson could not scientifically support the claims he made and suggested some points were plain invention. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3741
Now, a GM Watch subscriber, Kirsi Komonen, has drawn our attention to yet another remarkable aspect of the Gibson speech. Kirsi told us that the opening remarks in Gibson's speech are almost word for word the same as those in an article by Derek Burke. This opening similarity Kirsi suggests is no abberation. Many of the other points in Gibson's speech are also strikingly similar to points in Burke's article, in both language and argument.
Below we compare the two. We think you'll agree it is clear from this comparison that the politician who boasted he had the scientific knowledge to wipe the floor of the House of Commons with his adversaries, is in reality nothing better than a parrot!
1.GIBSON MAKING A BURKE OF HIMSELF
2.Who is Derek Burke?
1. GIBSON MAKING A BURKE OF HIMSELF
Burke's article: GM Food and Crops: What Went Wrong in the UK? Text at http://www.truthabouttrade.org/article.asp?id=1859
Gibson's speech Text: Hansard for May 5, 2004 http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200304/cmhansrd/cm040505/debtext/40505-33.htm
*TELL-TALE COPIED INTRO
GIBSON: "The point has often been made here that genetically modified crops are being grown extensively in north and south America and in China, although not in Europe. They have in a sense become part of the normal diet in those places, if not in Europe, where there is still contention, despite the fact that 300 million US citizens continue to eat GM soya without any ill effects in a very litigious society, and many Europeans, including people here, have eaten it while in the US, with no adverse consequences."
BURKE: "Genetically modified (GM) crops are now being grown extensively in North and South America and China, although not in Europe. Food produced from these crops has become a part of the normal diet in North and South America and in China, but not in Europe, where contention continues despite the fact that millions of US citizens eat GM soya without any ill effects in a very litigious society, and many Europeans have eaten GM soya while in the US without any adverse consequences."
*NUFFIELD AND 'ETHICAL OBLIGATION' TO 3RD WORLD
GIBSON: "The scientific, social and ethical issues have also been examined by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which has said that 'there is an ethical obligation to explore these potential benefits responsibly, in order to contribute to the reduction of poverty and to improve food security and profitable agriculture in developing countries.'"
BURKE: "The Nuffield Council on Bioethics' paper on 'The use of genetically modified crops in developing countries' (2004) reaffirmed its earlier conclusion that 'there is an ethical obligation to explore these potential benefits responsibly, in order to contribute to the reduction of poverty and to improve food security and profitable agriculture in developing countries'"
*BMA AND ROBUSTNESS
GIBSON: "The British Medical Association, too, has made robust submissions that there is no evidence that the foods are unsafe."
BURKE: the British Medical Association recently stated... that 'The BMA shares the view that there is no robust evidence to prove that GM foods are unsafe'"
*BECKETT: NO SCIENTIFIC CASE FOR BAN
GIBSON: "The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has made it quite clear: 'There is no scientific case for a blanket approval of all the uses of GM', but 'Equally, there is no scientific case for a blanket ban on the use of GM.'"
BURKE: "[The] Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, made a statement in the House of Commons saying inter alia that 'There was no scientific case for ruling out all GM crops or products'... Beckett further said that 'There is no scientific case for a blanket approval of all uses of GM, and equally there is no scientific case for a blanket ban on the use of GM'"
*PUBLIC WANT CAUTION, REGULATION AND MONITORING
GIBSON: "Recognising that people believe that the use of genetic modification should be approached with caution, the Government want regulation and monitoring. Some people want a framework of rules for the co-existence of GM and non-GM crops, and many want a clear regime of traceability and labelling so that they can make their own choices."
BURKE: "[the Secretary of State] took into account public concerns. 'Most people believe that the use of genetic modification should be approached with caution. They want strong regulation and monitoring and in addition, some want a framework of rules for coexistence of GM and non-GM crops, and customers want a clear regime for traceability and labelling so that they can make their own choices.'"
*BLAME THE MEDIA
GIBSON: "Let us consider some of the other things that the media have said throughout this torturous debate-nearly every newspaper has made some comment. Headlines include, "Are we at risk from mutant make-up?", "GM crops linked to meningitis", "Lifting the lid on the horror of GM foods", "Mutant porkies on the menu", "GM risk in daily food of millions", "GM food 'threatens the planet'", "Meat may be tainted by Frankenstein food", "M&S sells genetically modified Frankenpants"-that was from that classic newspaper, The Independent on Sunday-"Is GM the new thalidomide?", and so on. There has been a concerted media campaign to convey such a view of GM foods, and it obviously has an effect on people. ... In fact, the activism has not been public-led; it has been provoked by newspapers, and people have responded by becoming sceptical."
The newspaper headlines Gibson quotes occur in the following order
"Are we at risk from mutant make-up?"
"GM crops linked to meningitis"
"Lifting the lid on the horror of GM foods"
"Mutant porkies on the menu"
"GM risk in daily food of millions"
"GM food 'threatens the planet'"
"Meat may be tainted by Frankenstein food"
"M&S sells genetically modified Frankenpants
"Is GM the new thalidomide?",
Headlines in a sidebar to BURKE's article include, in the following order:
Are we at risk from mutant make-up?
Scientists warn of GM crops link to meningitis. Lifting the lid on the horror of GM foods.
Mutant porkies on the menu.
GM risk in daily food of millions.
GM food 'threatens the planet'.
Meat may be tainted by Frankenstein food.
M&S sells genetically modified Frankenpants.
Is GM the new thalidomide?
*PUSZTAI'S STUDY NOT SUPPORTED/REPLICATED
GIBSON: "[Arpad Pusztai] told us that feeding rats with genetically modified potatoes caused them damage. His work eventually appeared in a peer review journal... There is no evidence that his results can be repeated. I can cite times and places where people have tried to repeat the experiments and have not had the same results"
BURKE "...Arpad Pusztai claimed... that feeding rats with genetically modified potatoes caused them damage. Despite its eventual publication in a peer-reviewed journal... Pusztai's claim was not supported by evidence (Chen et al, 2003)..."
[The reference to Chen et al by Burke is to a supposed replication of Pusztai's study - and this is almost certainly the replication to which Gibson refers, and he has directly referred to chen in subsequent correspondence. However, Chen's research was not even done on the same crop as Pusztai's!]
*WHAT'S "NATURAL" ANYWAY? / ATTACK ON PRINCE CHARLES
GIBSON: "People also worry about what is natural. It is often said that something is 'not natural', 'not right', 'not the way it should be'. His Royal Highness - I think I can say this without risk - objected to 'taking into the realm of man what rightly belongs in the realm of God'.
"For him and others, genetic modification is seen as unnatural, articulating a romantic view of nature that sees everything natural as good and anything tampered with by humans as bad. Many people's views do not reflect that view. Scientists do not regard GM as unnatural, but some practices are certainly unethical. Of course, not everything that is possible should be done..."
BURKE: "Public consultation revealed a variety of concerns... I suggest some of these concerns stem from a deep antipathy to meddling with 'Nature'. Prince Charles objected to '...taking into the realm of man what rightly belongs in the realm of God.' For him and some others, genetic modification is 'unnatural', articulating a romantic view of nature that regards everything 'natural' as good and anything tampered with by humans as bad....In contrast, few scientists see genetic modification as unnatural, but agree that some things are unethical and that not everything that is possible should be done."
*HARDLY ANY PEOPLE CARE ABOUT GM
GIBSON: "[The Government] should have taken a much harder line, rather than listening to 0.00035 per cent of the population."
BURKE: "In fact, the British public has not been proactive on the GM question... During the 'GM Nation? The Public Debate' (2004), the website received interest from only 0.035% of the population..."
[Gibson appears to have added a couple of noughts to the figure, perhaps to add to the effect!]
*PUBLIC CONCERN ABOUT GM IS INVALID, IRRATIONAL OR INCONSISTENT
GIBSON: "It is ironic that, over 50 or 60 years, plant breeders have used chemical and radiation mutagenesis to create new varieties, with new modifications and genes leaping about and joining together, with no protest. We must ask why there was no protest then, but there is protest now."
BURKE: "It is also puzzling that there has never been any public concern about the fact that, for the past 50-60 years, plant breeders have used chemical and radiation mutagenesis to create new varieties, involving major and quite unknown genetic modifications.... So why is there so much opposition now?"
2. Who is Derek Burke?
Derek Burke - A GM WATCH profile http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=26
Prof Derek Burke was chair of the UK regulatory committee on GM foods (Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes - ACNFP) for almost a decade (1988-97), during which time the first GM foods were approved for the UK. In the 1980s he worked for a biotech company (Allelix Inc of Toronto) and until 1998 was a director of Genome Research Ltd.
During much of his time at ACNFP, Prof Burke was also Vice Chancellor of the University of East Anglia (1987-1995) and a member of the governing council of the John Innes Centre (JIC) Both institutions have benefited from investment in GM research, with the JIC subsequently enjoying multi-million pound investments from biotechnology corporations like Syngenta and Dupont. Burke participated in the UK government's 'Technology Foresight' exercise to decide how science could best contribute to the UK's economic competitiveness. He was then charged with incorporating the Foresight proposal to build businesses from genetics into the corporate plan of the UK's public funding body, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). As a result, BBSRC developed a strategy for integrating scientific opportunity with the needs of industry.
Prof Burke was a member of the Royal Society working group on GM foods whose report, 'Genetically Modified Plants for Food Use', is said to have reassured ministers on the GM issue. He was also a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics group that produced the report 'Genetically modified crops: the social and ethical issues'. The report was described by Guardian columnist George Monbiot as 'perhaps the most asinine report on biotechnology ever written. The stain it leaves on the Nuffield Council's excellent reputation will last for years.' Prof Burke was also a member of a small Nuffield working group who produced a follow up report along the same lines in 2003 as a contribution to the UK's GM Public Debate. He was also very active around the edges of the official Science Review which was held in coordination with the debate.
In late October 2003 Derek Burke sent a letter together with 113 other scientists to Tony Blair complaining about the Government's failure to intervene in the GM Public Debate in the UK. The Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) initially reported the letter as, 'written and coordinated by Professor Derek Burke' (SCIENTISTS ATTACK UK GOVERNMENT'S 'SILENCE' IN GM DEBATE) But a THES article of the 7th November said, 'The letter was coordinated by Sense About Science' while a THES Leader on the same topic did not even mention Burke, referring instead to, 'The new organisation behind the letter, Sense About Science'. (Leader: Science deserves greater support). Burke is on the Advisory Council of Sense About Science.
Prof Burke has been a keen propagandist for GM foods. In 1999, for instance, he published a 10-point rebuttal of criticisms by the Prince of Wales of GM food. In an article in the Times Higher Education Supplement in March 2003, he gave advice on campaigning to scientists wishing to defend nanotechnology. Burke told his readers, 'I have spent about half my time over the past six years speaking, writing, giving radio and television interviews about GM.' He advised them to form a rebuttal group, 'You need a group of people, in constant email contact, who are prepared to spend, say, 10 per cent of their week dealing with the issues that have just been raised. We have one now for GM, but it took us a long time to get that going.'
He warned his readers, 'Don't hype. We made that mistake about biotechnology in the early 1980s, and it did us great harm. Achievements were too slow in coming, cost more than originally estimated and delivered less in consumer benefits than we had promised. We were bullish, but if you overdo it, you will regret it. Some of this is driven by over-confidence, some by a desperate thirst for funds. Quick money can easily mislead inexperienced managers into spending too freely and uncritically, and credibility is quickly lost.' Financial considerations are the key according to Burke, '...the consequence of the loss of this technology for society is the loss of the ability to create new wealth. It's my grandchildren that I'm concerned about. How will they earn their living in 20 years? The answer may lie partly in your hands.'