GMWatch News Review archive
MONTHLY REVIEW No. 12
GMWATCH number 12
From Claire Robinson, GMWATCH editor
Welcome to our review of the last month, sent to you on the day Jose Bove walked free from prison after serving just 5 weeks of a 10-month jail sentence for destroying GM crops. His release follows high-profile protests across France. (see RESISTANCE TO GM)
In the UK in July we saw the conclusion of the government's 'GM Nation?' public debate. Around 40,000 individual responses are said to have been received, despite only 12,000 forms originally being printed!
An Internet Marketing Research Services poll, posing the same questions as those on the official form, reported 83% of the public did not think enough was known about the long-term effects of GM foods, 75% were worried that GM Crops would compromise the integrity of non-GM crops, and 71% were concerned about the negative impact of GM crops on the environment.
At about 500 meetings held around the country as part of the debate the views expressed seem to have been overwhelmingly in accord with those of the Prince of Wales who, during a visit to Cardiff this week, said: "We need a GM-free Wales - and a GM-free Britain, for that matter." (see RESISTANCE TO GM)
Supermarket bosses, during a recent meeting with the government, hammered home a similar message. Richard Ali, director of food policy at the British Retail Consortium, has commented, "We provide what customers demand and they do not want GM food." The communications director for Safeway, Kevin Hawkins, reported: "We have certainly seen no change in what people think about GM." And Kate O'Sullivan of Sainsbury's said: "Customers have made it clear they do not want GM ingredients." (see ECONOMICS below)
That meeting followed publication of the government's economic review. The Downing Street Strategy Unit's report admitted there was little economic value in the current generation of GM crops and warned the government that if it pressed ahead with commercialisation regardless, it faced the prospect of civil unrest (see ECONOMICS). The report's realism suggested No.10 had had its fill of "dodgy dossiers" for the moment.
But then came the science review (see TOPIC OF THE MONTH). Predictably, given the way the panel of 25 experts had been stacked, the report was in many respects a whitewash, though it still failed to provide the ringing endorsement that the industry had hoped for.
"GM Fails to Win Official Backing", ran the headline in The Daily Telegraph, reporting that the review dealt, "a further blow to GM supporters" by sounding a "much more cautious note than expected". The review even warned of a series of significant "gaps in our knowledge" and that "uncertainties will become more complex" in the future.
Still more revealing were the forces that helped to shape publication. Biotech industry scientists and their supporters were said to have dominated the panel's work, with the report's key safety section being written by an employee of Monsanto!
Of the two experts on the panel nominated by groups critical of GM crops, one - Prof Carlo Leifert - resigned after receiving confirmation from an industry source that he was a target, while the other - Dr Andrew Stirling - learned of a clandestine attack on his reputation and his funding.
What's so revealing about this is that Leifert is an expert on organic farming while Stirling's work, on the risks and management of technological innovation, is funded via a social sciences research board. Yet both experienced career/funding pressures over raising questions about GM. Try and imagine the pressures on, say, a molecular biologist whose public funding comes via a research council so industrially aligned that its Chairman is a director of Syngenta! Such a scientist, and/or his employer, will often have a still more direct financial relationship with the biotech industry. (see CORPORATE TAKEOVER OF SCIENCE)
News of Dr Stirling's treatment emerged only after the science review had been published, despite the fact that Stirling had reported it in a letter to the panel's chairman back in June. His silence had been bought by a promise his letter would be published. It never was.
Only after a press enquiry to the government, asking for a copy of the minutes covering Dr Stirling's allegations, was he suddenly informed that "legal reasons" prevented the publication of his letter. Two days later the minutes were finally published minus the letter. (see TOPIC OF THE MONTH)
As well as seeking to manipulate the science review, GM lobbyists have also been busy trying to undermine the public debate. The President of the Royal Society began claiming the debate would be "hijacked by fundamentalist lobby groups" even before it had got started. And low and behold, now that it has finshed, up pops an editorial in the current edition of the journal Nature without a word to say about the treatment of Dr Stirling but claiming, "open meetings in the public debate have been subjected to campaigning tactics by anti-GM lobbyists, leading to complaints from other members of the public that discussions have been compromised." Nature's editor, who attracted scorn for the craven way in which he gave in to biotech industry pressure over the journal's paper on Mexican maize contamination, produces not a jot of evidence in support of this claim. (see CORPORATE TAKEOVER OF SCIENCE)
Meanwhile, the publication is still awaited of the report on the government's farm scale trials on three varieties of GM crops: beet, fodder maize and rape. Saturday's Independent claims, "Whitehall experts believe ministers will give the green light to grow one variety of GM crop in Britain, possibly maize, to send a signal to the Americans that they are not anti-GM. But two other varieties are expected to be rejected because they may damage the environment."
Don't forget our new archive at: http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive.asp
And please don't miss an important CAMPAIGN OF THE MONTH on a subject that's close to my heart. This could save an immense amount of suffering in the years to come.
TOPIC OF THE MONTH
RESISTANCE TO GM
CORPORATE TAKEOVER OF GOVERNMENT
CORPORATE TAKEOVER OF SCIENCE
QUOTES OF THE MONTH
JOKE OF THE MONTH
CAMPAIGN OF THE MONTH
TOPIC OF THE MONTH: GM Science Review - IRAQ MARK 2
Even before its publication, the GM Science Review was mired in controversy. But no one was quite prepared for the bombshells that started exploding as the Science Review Panel reported.
Former Environment Minister Michael Meacher called the report a "public scandal". He said, "This is just a rehash of existing reports and includes no data of systematic trials to test GM food safety. This is Iraq Mark 2: there is no supporting evidence for action, the public don't like it and the Government seems determined to over-rule all opposition."
Then it emerged that the lead author on the report's risk assessment chapter was an employee of Monsanto. This was one of the reasons why scientist Carlo Leifert quit the SRP in disgust, dismissing it as "Naive, narrow and biased".
Here are some headlines:
GM inquiry exposed as top scientist quits
Inquiry call over threat to scientist
The GM plot: Scientist tried to sabotage work of top academic
http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/environment/story.jsp?story=427631 (see below)
Dissenting adviser quits GM panel
Top scientist was told his career was over if he dared to speak his mind about GM
http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=1214 (see below)
British scientist was smeared for anti-GM stance on government panel
Naive, narrow and biased...
Carlo Leifert explains why he resigned from the GM science review panel
Back in March, the Observer was already reporting escalating concerns over the review "amid accusations it has sidestepped topics such as potential health effects". It also noted the high number of those on the panel with "strong pro-GM views". These included "consultants to Lord Sainsbury's biotech investment company Diatech Ltd, employees of Monsanto and Syngenta, and those who have attacked organic food - the nemesis of the GM lobby - as poisonous."
[Fury over spin on GM crops, The Observer, March 9, 2003
Out of the 25 scientists on the science review panel (SRP), only 2 - Prof Carlo Leifert and Dr Andrew Stirling - were nominated by groups critical of GM crops. Note the contrast with the more balanced composition of the Government's Agricultural and Environmental Biotechnology Commission (AEBC) or of the Independent Steering Board appointed to oversee the Public Debate.
In the March article one of the review panelists was quoted as saying, "The general feeling - including some of those people who are pro-GM - is that the review is clearly designed to achieve something other than an objective assessment of the issues."
The methods used to achieve that goal turned out not just to include weighting the panel in a staunchly pro-GM direction. Of the two sceptical panelists one, Prof Carlo Leifert, subsequently resigned in disgust at the biased and superficial way the review was being conducted and for fear that the funding for his research would be jeopardised if he failed to tow the party line.
Then, within days of the publication of the report, it became plain that Leifert wasn't the only one who'd felt under pressure. The publication of minutes of a panel meeting in late June revealed how an attempt had been made by a leading pro-GM scientist associated with the review - an individual said to be in a privileged academic and/or regulatory position - to undermine Dr Stirling's reputation and future funding.
Even more startling than the atmosphere of fear and intimidation that seems to have prevailed during the review is the role played by the biotech industry's representatives on the panel.
According to one source, "Whenever the information being examined appeared critical of GM, it was just rubbished. The panel had made up its mind before it sat down... Carlo complained about biotech companies being on the science panel because of the risk they would intimidate the others. They have dominated the panel." [GM enquiry exposed as top scientist quits
The clearest example of that domination is that the safety assessment section of the review was written by Dr Andrew Cockburn, an employee of Monsanto.
For Leifert this was, "the last straw... It seemed incredibly naive to me to have someone whose interest is in selling GM to do the risk assessment chapter."
Cockburn, as one might expect, is a staunch defender of the current safety assessments of GM crops and food: "genetically modified crops are as safe and nutritious as those derived from traditional crops." In a published review he claimed, "The lack of any adverse effects resulting from the production and consumption of GM crops grown on more than 300 million cumulative acres over the last 5 years supports these safety conclusions."
The safety section of the Science Review exactly follows this line of argument. Leifert notes, "The report mentions that Americans have eaten GM food for about seven years now and they haven't suffered. But nobody has actually investigated the effect of GM consumption on public health in the US. The argument doesn't make sense, and to have it coming from a scientific panel is really quite sad."
Leifert's overall conclusion on the review: "I feel that the bias came from the strong lobby of pro-GM scientists and biotechnology representatives on the panel. They seem to be much more prepared to take little or no evidence as meaning no problem... One of the conclusions of the report is that we have to look at GM crops on a case-by-case basis. I wouldn't agree with that. Right now we still have to check that there isn't some inherent problem with the technology."
[Naive, narrow and biased...
As the week drew to a close, Patrick Holden of the Soil Association wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister urging Tony Blair to launch a formal investigation into the threats made against Dr Andrew Stirling.
Holden writes, "This appalling incident throws into doubt the integrity of the Science Review Panel's report, which was already in question after the resignation from the Panel of Professor Carlo Leifert (of Newcastle University) because of his concerns about the Panel's pro-GM bias. None of this helps advance the pro-GM case, and the main loser is the integrity of British Science."
'THIS IS IRAQ MARK 2'
The report argues that there is no evidence that eating GM foods poses a threat to health and concludes that GM crops are 'very unlikely to invade our countryside or become problematic plants'.
The panel stopped short of giving blanket approval to the growing of GM crops in the UK, concluding that plans to grow GM plants should be approached on a case-by-case basis. But far from being an environmental and health safeguard, 'case-by-case' evaluation is a ploy constantly promoted by the biotech industry because
*by considering one GM crop at a time, it avoids awkward questions being asked about the inherent safety of GM technology, which has been thrown into doubt by the work of independent scientists
*it enables 'damage limitation': should one GM crop be proven to be harmful, this will not prevent others being marketed.
The report was immediately welcomed by the biotech industry and the "independent" Science Media Centre (funders include Astra Zeneca, Dupont, and Pfizer)
But it was condemned by former Environment Minister Michael Meacher who described it as a "public scandal". "They say that they have found no evidence that eating GM food causes a health risk but what I think is a public scandal is that no-one has actually looked for the evidence, it is just assumed."
Greenpeace chief scientist Dr Doug Parr said: "This committee was deliberately stacked with GM flag-wavers, but its so-called findings still come nowhere near justifying the risks. The report makes it clear there are areas of huge uncertainty."
Gundula Azeez of the Soil Association commented, "Without more independent studies, all we have at the moment is an unproven hypothesis that GM foods are safe. Globally, there've been only 10 published studies of the health effects of GM food and feed. Five, done in collaboration with biotechnology companies, found no negative effects on body organs. The other five were independent, and four of those found potentially negative changes which have not been explained."
FEAR AND INTIMIDATION: GM-SCEPTICAL SCIENTIST THREATENED
Prof Carlo Leifert was not the only scientist to feel the heat of the pro-GM bias surrounding the Science Review. Read the following excerpts from two newspaper articles telling the tale of clandestine attack and cover up.
The GM plot: Scientist tried to sabotage work of top academic who is a sceptic
By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
The Independent, 26 July 2003
Secret moves were made by a senior pro-GM scientist to sabotage the career of another academic who was sceptical about GM crops and food, it was alleged yesterday.
The pro-GM scientist tried to get the sceptic, Andrew Stirling from Sussex University, dropped from a research project by approaching the project's funders and rubbishing Dr Stirling's work. He failed, and Dr Stirling was later informed of the approach.
The source of the allegation was remarkable. It came from the website of the government's official GM science review, in minutes endorsed by the review chairman and the Government's chief scientific adviser, Professor Sir David King.
The accusation is one of the most serious in the past five years of bitter public and scientific disputes about genetically modified organisms. It has sometimes been suggested that pressure has been brought to bear on GM sceptics to moderate their views, by senior GM-supporting scientists.
... Dr Stirling was appointed on the recommendation of environmental and organic-farming pressure groups... The name of the man who allegedly attempted to damage Dr Stirling's career has not been made public - although it is known that he is not a member of the review panel - and yesterday Dr Stirling refused to disclose it.
But he did say the person concerned, who had not approached or threatened him directly, had made a clandestine approach to a "senior official of a major research-funding body".
He told The Independent: "It was an approach in which my research was disparaged in strong terms and my professional standing was undermined. And this was because of the sceptical position I was taking on the science review panel."
Dr Stirling said: "This type of thing threatens to undermine the whole science advice process, and I hope that the public attention may help deter this type of pressure in future."
Top scientist was told his career was over if he dared to speak his mind about GM
DAILY MAIL, July 25, 2003
...The handling of the threats has turned the spotlight on Tony Blair's personal scientific adviser, Professor Sir David King, who chaired the GM review panel. Professor King faces questions over whether he tried to delay publicising the allegations in an attempt to put off embarrassing media coverage.
Dr Stirling, who is based at the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, wrote to Professor King in June, detailing his claims. The professor gave an undertaking that the letter would be attached to the minutes of the review panel when they were published.
Dr Stirling agreed to remain silent until publication.
This meant his claims of bullying were kept secret until the panel's final report was released on Monday. It controversially concluded there was no case for a blanket ban on GM crops.
The Daily Mail contacted the Science Review Secretariat, which is run by the Department of Trade and Industry, on Tuesday to ask for a copy of the minutes covering Dr Stirling's allegations. The DTI's deputy head of ews, Marcus De Ville, rang back that day asking why. He said there would be a delay in supplying them.
Within hours of the Daily Mail's call, the DTI had contacted Dr Stirling to say his letter would not be published as promised.
GOVERNMENT ECONOMIC REVIEW SAYS NO CASE FOR GM CROPS
The government's Science Review HAD to come up with an upbeat result after the publication of the Economic Review, which said there were no benefits to farmers or consumers in growing GM crops and pointed to the possibility of public disorder if growing went ahead! Here are excerpts from a Guardian article.
GM foods: unloved, unwanted and a rush to grow crops could cause civil unrest
Ministers try to put gloss on bleak view from strategy unit
Paul Brown, The Guardian, July 12, 2003
A bleak picture for the future of genetically modified crops in Britain was outlined by the Cabinet Office strategy unit yesterday, which said there was currently no benefit to the UK consumer or farmer in growing such foods because there was no market.
The unit also warned if there was a rush to grow GM crops the government was in danger of further damaging the trust between the public and food regulators, which could lead to civil unrest and the destruction of crops.
Before the report was published ministers and officials were out in force putting a "gloss" on the report, suggesting that existing GM crops could "offer some cost and convenience advantages to UK farmers".
However, the report makes clear that apart from the very limited possibility of selling crops for animal feed, UK farmers would have to export their crops if they were to find a market, since supermarkets and consumers had rejected GM food.
... Peter Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association, said: "This report is dynamite and highlights the huge uncertainties in GM. The government spin just does not reflect what the strategy unit says - namely that the public just do not want to buy GM - and the uncertainties of the technology are just not covered by safety tests or regulatory procedures."
ONE COUNTRY'S TRADE LOSS IS ANOTHER'S GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY
Even the biotech-industry sympathetic Economist (magazine) admits:
"While biology can go some way to answering uncertainties about GM crops, the future of the technology lies with a more dismal science: economics. Crucial here is the demand for GM products along the food chain, from farm to fork.
....having GM on the farm could add to costs throughout the food chain. New European rules on labelling and traceability, to come into force later this year, will demand further careful separation of GM and non-GM crops, and a detailed paper trail from field to foodstore.
The rules will also require that the distinction between GM and non-GM be applied to animal feed and "derivatives" - such as soya oil - which appear in a wide variety of processed foods."
... Archer Daniels Midland, one of the world's leading grain handlers, does not see a big difference between the price of GM and of conventional produce [ie GM's not leading, as claimed, to cheaper food]. Food manufacturers, such as General Mills, are equally sceptical about the advantage to consumers in GM food. At the same time, the message coming from some of Europe's powerful supermarkets is that they don't want to stock anything that they have to describe as GM.
...Europe's resistance to GM foods is having an effect beyond its borders. In Canada, for example, there is a fierce row in the prairies over Monsanto's new GM wheat. ...On the other hand, new markets are opening elsewhere to cater to GM-wary populations: one country's trade loss is another's golden opportunity.
Far from taking over world agriculture, GM crops represent less than 5% of world farm acreage. Hesitant markets, as well as scientific uncertainty, will continue to slow their spread in Europe and Asia. For all the extravagant promises of salvation, and the dire predictions of damnation, the past five years of public resistance have brought GM technology down to earth. Its future now lies in more focused applications in particular parts of the world. GM never did stand for Global Miracles."
FARMER SCRAPPED GM TRIAL AS IT WOULD HAVE MADE HIS PRODUCE WORTHLESS
The first farmer in Wales to grow a genetically modified crop was told by a major high street brand the rest of his produce would be worthless unless he scrapped the trial. The story says that former Monmouthshire High Sheriff James McConnel grew 37 acres of GM oilseed rape at Whitehouse Farm, Newcastle, Monmouth, in 1997 and another 45 acres the following year. He also received a licence for a further trial crop in 1999 but he abandoned the plans when he learned that growing public disquiet with GM crops would make it impossible for him to sell produce to a major high street brand.
WHY FARMER SCRAPPED GM TRIAL, Trinity Mirror Plc., August 1, 2003
UK GOVERNMENT WARNS GM FARMERS OVER CONTAMINATION THREAT
British farmers who have previously grown GM oil seed rape as part of the Government's farm scale evaluations have been told that they mustn't grow conventional oil seed rape on the same land this autumn. The move follows fears that this might result in the non-GM rape suffering from such significant levels of GM contamination that it would lead to their crops becoming unsellable.
BENBROOK ON WHY GM FOOD AID MAY NOT BE SAFE
Excerpts from "GMOs, Pesticide Use, and Alternatives: Lessons from the U.S. Experience" Presented at the Conference on GMOs and Agriculture by Dr. Charles M. Benbrook, Paris, France, June 20, 2003
Full text and slides available from:
MONSANTO'S SAFETY TESTS FOR RR SOY SERIOUSLY FLAWED
Read a Japanese scientist's critique of Monsanto's safety data for Roundup Ready soy at
MONSANTO SUES DAIRY OVER LABELING
PORTLAND, Maine: Oakhurst Dairy Inc. is being sued by Monsanto Co., which alleges that Oakhurst's marketing campaign that touts its milk as being free of GM growth hormones (rBGH) is misleading. Although rBGH has been banned in every industrialized nation in the world except for the United States, Monsanto continues to claim that rBGH-derived milk is no different from the natural stuff, despite documentation that rBGH milk contains substantially higher levels of a potent cancer tumor promoter called IGF-1.
Monsanto sued two dairies and threatened several thousand retailers in 1994 for labeling or advertising milk and dairy products as "rBGH-free." Despite Monsanto's intimidation tactics, more than 10% of U.S. milk is currently labeled as "rBGH-free," while sales of organic milk and dairy products (which prohibit rBGH) are booming. In recent months a Monsanto-funded front group, the Center for Consumer Freedom, has launched a smear campaign against organic dairies claiming they are defrauding consumers.
For a full discussion on the rBGH controversy, see the rBGH section on the OCA website:
MOSES VS PUSZTAI ON FOOD SAFETY
When the UK Government's Science Review was published, the biotech industry funded lobby group CropGen quickly press released its response.
This consisted almost entirely of a lengthy statement by Professor Vivian Moses, CropGen's Chairman and the author of such books and articles as "From cells to sales", "Entrepreneurial professors" and "Exploiting biotechnology".
In his statement Prof Moses noted that, "Some people... note the absence of extensive feeding trials on human subjects."
He went on to say that, "There is no way such a test could be run" He listed 3 reasons for this:
1. it would be quite impossible to assemble the participants for the period and with the rigour required;
2. it would cost an unbelievable amount of money;
3. nobody would be remotely interested in developing products that required anything like such a degree of testing.
Moses also argued that for human testing to reach the rigour of animal testing, it should involve "killing batches of them along the way to see what might have happened internally", as well as the use of "inbred populations" that are genetically virtually identical (like identical twins), so eliminating the possibility that any variations are due to individual genetic idiosyncrasies.
While ruling out investigation of the longer term effects of GM foods, Moses claimed more acute effects were already fully investigated:
"animal tests have already shown no effects from GM foods approved for use in the UK.
"We can readily test for acute conditions: is the new food toxic, is it likely to provoke allergic responses and might it result in nutritional deficiencies? All these tests can be done in the laboratory using animals or with a relatively small number of human volunteers. Such tests are, indeed, routinely done as part of the approvals process."
This news will have come as a surprise to many people, simply because it isn't true!
PUSZTAI RESPONDS TO MOSES
Here Dr Arpad Pusztai responds, with his usual playful courtesy and understatement, to the claims made by Prof Moses.
Here is my response to Prof. Moses on the impossibility of safety and human testing.
Prof. Moses ought to know, as I personally explained it to him on a number of occasions, and he never objected to my arguments, that although we can never guarantee the 100% safety of anything, this should not be used as an excuse for doing nothing, which is the norm with GM foods.
We scientists could draw up a list of safety checks that could be the starting point for nutritional/toxicological testing of GM foods on a case-by-case basis. In this the animal tests (after chemical analyses) would be a first step. If the GM food would fail any of these tests on the lists, this food should not proceed any further in the approval process. Those (and only those) which pass these tests could then be subjected to human clinical trials. The length of the time that such tests may take should not be a point in the argument because there is no pressing nutritional need for producing these GM foods in the first place which only benefit the producers but not the consumers.
Similarly, the prohibitively high cost of these tests should not be a valid argument against the testing of GM foods because if the biotech companies want to sell their products to customers, they will have to bear the cost, no matter how high it is.
Now to the scientific points he raised:
Prof. Moses knows perfectly well from his science past that the inbred status of the rats and mice used in laboratory tests is a must because otherwise the statistical significance of the experimenters' findings will never be established and the results would never pass peer-review and be published. Without this (and in our case even with this) the pro-GM people would have a field-day of rubbishing the experiments which show any untoward effects on the animals.
The most important point, however, is not that similar studies are impossible with humans because they are not inbred. (Unfortunately even this may be possible in the future when the biotech industry will be able to persuade our politicians that they will have far less problems with obedient cloned humans). The important point in advocating animal studies is that should any particular GM food fail the animal safety studies on the checklist its progress to the human stage of testing would be stopped. In any case, when it comes to human health it would be totally unethical to use statistics. Or should we say that we still want go on with the commercialization of a particular GM food if even one human subject out of a hundred developed symptoms indicating health damage? Or for example, are we willing to play Russian roulette and pay the price for the gene therapy of SCID children when we find out that two of these children developed leukemia after the genetherapy treatment? Prof. Moses knows well that even animal studies are not foolproof as, for example, the tragedy of thalidomide had shown! The rule ought to be, and it is one-way, non-reversible, if the animal tests indicate harm to the animals this is the end-of-the road for that GM foodstuff.
We should also draw up safety checks for humans. These would be non-invasive in the first instance. For example, immune responsivenes (like the test we adapted from human hospital tests to rat studies) could be much more easily checked serially in humans than in animals by consecutive blood sampling of human subjects given GM food in comparison with those on the non-GM counterpart food. Hormone assays could similarly be done to assess the metabolic status of GM-fed vs non-GM-fed individuals. Bacterial status could be assessed from human faecal samples and so on. I am sure, the medical fraternity could easily draw up such a checklist. We are not looking for (I hope) acute poisonings with GM foods but the presence of metabolic disturbances just like in disease situations.
We then could go on to more invasive human tests. We could regard the Newcastle study as such an attempt and this could be broadened to look not only for transgene survival in the gut but also for tracing it to the blood stream and other body fluids. Or to see by gastric biopsy-takings whether, similar to the pinpoint stomach erosive lesions observed in rats after dosing them with FLAVR-SAVR tomatoes, would such stomach lesions also be observed in humans when given other GM foodstuffs. If there was funding available for drawing up such a checklist, I am sure, the medical people would be able to come up with recommendations.
Then there is a possibility to monitor the health of comparable human populations in countries where the GM foods are still relatively few and those sold are strictly labelled. Volunteers could always be found as in many other large scale nutritional studies (e.g. the Finnish carotene study, etc). The only ethical requirement would be, as always, that when the interim evaluation of the study's results show harm, the study must be stopped.
I think Prof. Moses's third point is quite telling, i.e. that "nobody would be remotely interested in developing products that required anything like such a degree of testing". Clearly, in a profit-driven industry consumer health is a secondary consideration.
Finally, I have to take strong issue with Prof. Moses' statement that "animal tests have already shown no effects from GM foods approved for use in the UK". Obviously, to make such a statement Prof. Moses, just like Prof. David King's 24 (minus one) member science review committee, had to ignore our damning review of the pitifully small number of scientific papers published in peer-reviewed journals on the health effects of GM foodstuffs.
As a former scientist he ought to have known even if Prof. David King's committee members did not, that in the absence of a good numbers of papers in the peer-reviewed science literature it is impossible to form any scientific consensus about the potential health effects of GM foods particularly if those papers which have been published are of poor scientific standard and have come from biotech industry-sponsored labs.
It is a grave travesty of the truth to say as in the second sentence of the CropGen response: "All these tests can be done in the laboratory using animals or with a relatively small number of human volunteers. SUCH TESTS ARE, INDEED, ROUTINELY DONE AS PART OF THE APPROVALS PROCESS". Within the bounds of civilised discussion I cannot comment on this because I do not want to be personal!
Andy Rowell, "The sinister sacking of the world's leading GM expert [Pusztai] and the trail that leads to Tony Blair and the White House", Daily Mail, Jul 7 2003
Hot Potato - Pusztai: The True Story - excerpts from Rowell's new book 'Don't Worry It Is Safe To Eat'
PUSZTAI ON SUBSTANTIAL EQUIVALENCE
Excerpt from Arpad Pusztai, "GM Foods: Potential Human Health Effects", a chapter in the book Food Safety. The chapter, including photos of rats' guts damaged by eating GM foods, can be downloaded as a pdf here
'Substantial equivalence' is a crude, non-scientific concept. It provides a loophole for the GM biotechnology companies not to carry out nutritional and toxicological animal tests to establish whether the biological effect of the GM crop-based foodstuff is substantially equivalent to that of its non-GM counterpart. It therefore allows them to claim that there is no need for biological testing because the GM crops are similar to their conventional counterpart, while on the other hand, because they contain novel genes from other organisms, they are patentable.
However, unintentional and unpredictable changes can occur in plants because of the incorporation and positioning of the vector in the plant genome. It cannot therefore be known which of the hundreds of components of the GM crop may carry toxic or allergenic properties. As most of these are unknown, by definition, they cannot be included in analytical comparisons. Determination of the amounts of protein, carbohydrate, fats and other nutrients can only be a starting point. The consumption of minor and unexpected constituents of potentially high biological activity may have considerable and disproportionately large effects on the digestive tract. Their presence, therefore, can only be revealed from animal studies, and this makes it imperative that these are performed with a flawless design and experimentation.
MEACHER ASKS TOUGH QUESTIONS IN PARLIAMENT
"It's probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in." - Former US president Lyndon B Johnson on FBI director J Edgar Hoover
Tony Blair must be asking himself whether former environment minister Michael Meacher was a 'safer pair of hands' when he was still in office, since now he's been sacked, he just won't stop asking awkward questions about GM foods. In Parliament, Meacher pointed out that human health trials have not been done and that assumption of safety under the doctrine of 'substantial equivalance' "has no scientific underpinning whatever".
Meacher said that food derived illnesses are believed by the US centres for disease control to have doubled during the past seven years. In the US, GM Starlink maize caused allergic reactions in people and the York nutritional laboratory in the UK reported that since the introduction of GM soy into the UK, soy allergies had increased by 50%. And the Newcastle feeding study had shown that GM DNA is taken up by gut bacteria.
Meacher cited a Royal Society report which said "that any baby food containing GM products could lead to a dramatic rise in allergies, and unexpected shifts in oestrogen levels in GM soya-based infant feed might affect sexual development in children."
He asked also how the organic sector would be protected if GM were commercialised here: ".the organic oilseed rape canola industry has been wiped out in Canada within only a few years as a result of cross-contamination from GM. Again, how do the Government propose to stop the same thing happening here?
Read the full transcript of Meacher's questions, in which Meacher summarises much of the evidence against GM, and new minister Morley's inadequate and largely meaningless responses, at
SUPERWEEDS FEAR FROM GM CROPS
Scientific evidence shows that GM oilseed rape is expected to cross with five wild British plants, creating "superweeds" which are resistant to herbicides. Maps produced to show the distribution of five wild species demonstrate that GM oilseed rape grown almost anywhere in the UK would contaminate native plants.
Government GM science advisers, the advisory committee on releases to the environment (Acre), have identified five wild plant species found in the UK for which there is scientific evidence that hybrids could be formed with oilseed rape. The list was confirmed by the European environment agency which concluded that "the risk of hybridisation is high".
Download the map showing the likely pattern of contamination:
GM WAR ON WEEDS 'CAN KILL SMALL BIRDS'
GM crops could have a serious impact on Britain's already beleaguered farmland birds, a new report including research in Norfolk, UK, revealed yesterday. The Hawk and Owl Trust, which carried out the study on hen harrier diets, is hoping the findings will be important evidence in the national debate about GM crops. The trust believes the introduction of new farming practices such as genetically modified herbicide-tolerant crops designed to control arable weeds could increase the pressure on birds like skylarks, linnets, greenfinches, reed buntings and dunnocks.
GM CROPS COULD ERASE WILD COUNTERPARTS, SAYS STUDY
According to new mathematical models, developed by scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Minnesota-St. Paul, wild populations of agricultural crops could be obliterated by their genetically altered descendants in an evolutionary blink of an eye - a matter of just a few generations, possibly in less than a decade.
"There has been a lot of hand waving about the effects" of genetically modified organisms on wild populations of plants, said Don Waller, professor of botany and environmental studies at UW-Madison. "But this is solid evidence using a rigorous model" to show that these fears are founded.
Conserving the genetic integrity of wild plants, explains Dr Haygood, is important for protecting the survival of the plants themselves and maintaining their repository of advantageous traits, which can be used to improve crop health: "The fact is that most genes for crop improvement have come from wild relatives of those same crops."
"The potential ramifications are huge and diverse." The researchers found that crop genes can rapidly take over wild populations and, sometimes, just a small increase in the rate of pollen flow [there are some indications GM can increase this] can make a big difference in the spread of a crop gene. When this happens, says Ives, "There's no going back. It's irreversible."
"Crop genes, even fairly deleterious ones, can easily become common in wild populations within 10 to 20 generations," says Haywood.
Although this research was published in a journal of the UK's Royal Society, it has received no publicity in the UK. This contrasts with the now discredited Broom's Barn research, which even the Science Review didn't take serioulsy, but which the RS hyped heavily on publication back in January as demonstrating that GM crops could save the skylark!
EUROPE COMPLETES LAWS ON GM FOOD AND FEED
The European Union has completed its legislative framework governing GM organisms with the adoption of two European Commission proposals. One establishes a system to trace and label these products of biotechnology, and another regulates the marketing and labeling of food and feed products derived from GM organisms.
The draft law requires the labeling of all foods produced from GMOs whether or not there is DNA or protein of transgenic origin in the final product. All products containing more than 0.9 percent of GM organisms will have to be labelled, as will all GM feed.
The new legislation aims at lifting Europe's de facto moratorium on the import and growing of GM crops, though it remains unclear how soon this will happen as it depends on the agreement of member states.
GM-FREE ZONES ILLEGAL, SAYS FISCHLER
EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler has said that any EU region or member state seeking to ban GMs could end up in the European courts.
"RIDICULOUS", SAYS CHARLES
The Prince of Wales has commented, "It's ridiculous." His view: "We need a GM-free Wales - and a GM-free Britain, for that matter."
EUROPE GOING GM FREE ALL OVER
In Europe, regions of Italy, France, Germany and Austria have declared that they will not allow GM crops to be grown in their areas. In many cases, the regions believe it would make commercial sense to be able to market their produce as "GM-free".
In Britain, the counties of Devon, Dorset, Lancashire, Cornwall, Warwickshire and Shropshire, with Cumbria and Somerset joining last week, have voted to set up zones. Many district and town councils, including York, South Gloucestershire, Ryedale and South Hams in Devon, have also voted against the crops. The Lake District national park has become the first such park to vote against the crops, and the Welsh assembly has also declared its opposition. Many other British councils are believed to be considering whether to follow suit.
GOLDEN RICE NOT EVEN OFF THE STARTING BLOCKS
Attempts to start research into GM vitamin A 'Golden Rice' in India have still not got off the ground after three years. Seed supplied to the Institute that was to develop the rice has failed. Dr B. Mishra, Director of the Directorate of Rice Research, said, "the first lot of seeds which were given to the Institute were found to have problems, hence they were not utilised for research and burnt."
It's interesting that Ingo Potrykus, the inventor of Golden Rice, has for some time now been denouncing Greenpeace and others for causing untold death and suffering in the Third World by not supporting Golden Rice, when this untested technology hasn't even got off the starting blocks!
SEE ALSO, Golden Rice Is Tarnished, by Anuradha Mittal
BUSH'S BIOTECH SHOCK & AWE
The Bush Administration seems to be applying its "for us or against us" anti-terrorism formula to trade policy, particularly if the country is a developing one like Egypt. Similarly, when Croatia and Thailand raised health objections to GM crops, the U.S. threatened trade sanctions and both countries backed down.
See: Food Bully - Bush's Biotech Shock and Awe Campaign
GM FOODS: THE ART OF PUBLIC DECEPTION
' "Rachel Carlson is an evil force," [Norman Borlaug] told me, adding "these are the people who do not want hunger to be eliminated." Ironically, approximately 25 years after Rachel Carlson's book was first published, Dr Borlaug seems to have finally bowed to public opinion. He is now advocating the use of genetic engineering to reduce the use of harmful pesticides! Pesticides were safe as long as the industry's commercial interests needed protection..." - Devinder Sharma
RESISTANCE TO GM
SUPERMARKETS TELL BLAIR THEY WON'T STOCK GM
Supermarket bosses have told environment secretary Margaret Beckett that even if GM crops are commercialised in the UK they will not stock GM food because it goes against customers' wishes.
BRITAIN SHOULD BE GM-FREE, SAYS CHARLES
GM crops should be banned in Britain, the Prince of Wales said during a speech in Cardiff Bay. The Prince said, "We need a GM-free Wales - and a GM-free Britain as well, for that matter." And he dismissed the merits of a claim that moves to ban so-called "Frankenstein foods" in Wales alone were illegal.
The World Trade Organisation is threatening legal action against the European Union over its refusal to allow imports of unlabelled GM produce from America. But the claims of illegality come from the European Commission, and were repeated by EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler at the Royal Welsh Show. The Prince's reaction was blunt: "It's ridiculous," he said.
AMERICANS DON'T WANT GM EITHER
A new ABCNEWS poll with a sample of 1,024 adults has found that 92% of consumers in the United States favour the mandatory labelling of GM food products, and a majority (51%) of the respondents say that they are attracted to food with labels stating that they were not GM. 54% of US women regard GM foods as unsafe to eat, with men evenly divided.
Similarly, some 30 percent of shoppers surveyed by the Food Marketing Institute in 2003 said that GM food posed a "serious health risk," compared to just 15 percent in 1997. Another recent study, from the Pew Research Center, found that 55 percent of Americans think GM foods are a "bad thing."
NEITHER DO CANADIANS!
88% of Canadians perceive "food safety" as the top consumer issue and 68% are unsure that GM food is safe, reports a survey by the Consumers Council of Canada. http://www.consumerscouncil.com/pin.htm
COMPANIES IN CHINA CLEAR GM FOOD OFF THEIR SHELVES
A non-GM policy is becoming a strong trend in the word's largest food market with 32 food producers operating in China, including leading brands, announcing they are now officially committed to not selling GM food in China..
CHINA'S GM LABELLING CRACKDOWN
Enterprises which fail to label genetically modified (GM) products they produce or sell will face punishment, authorities in Beijing have announced. The Beijing Agricultural Bureau (BAA) launched a month-long inspection on genetically modified farming products on July 21, urging GM food producers and sellers to label the products. All products made from or containing GM materials should be labelled.
AUSTRALIAN STATES SAY NO TO GMO
GM canola production won't go ahead this year in Australia due to moves at the state level, as all five states where canola is grown have introduced measures to prevent GM food production. This is in spite of the fact that the Australian government has given the green light for the commercial release of GM canola.
FRENCH PROTESTS CONTINUE AS BOVE FREED!
Jose Bove walked free from prison on Saturday after serving just five weeks of a 10-month jail sentence for destroying gene-modified plants
Supporters of Bove have been staging demonstrations throughout France to protest President Chirac's failure to grant Bove a full pardon. Around 1,000 protesters beat sticks on security barriers around Bove's prison in Herault, southern France. Another 300 supporters held a protest picnic beneath the Eiffel Tower. Protesters were also arrested during France's Bastille Day parade while others disrupted the Tour de France.
Meanwhile, the Confédération Paysanne has been intensifying its anti-GM actions via multiple crop-pulling actions.
"We want to show that our determination is as great as ever in acting in the battle against GM. The imprisonment of José Bové will not make us stand down", says Bruno Galloo, head of the the Confédération Paysanne for Picardie. "In Corsica, one sees today fire leaping over 2 kilometres, with the wind. And they want us to believe that pollen, lighter than these cinders, will not spread."
Bove's arrest in June for destroying GM crops prompted an outcry after 80 armed police smashed into hisMontpellier home and bundled him into a helicopter.
JAPAN'S ONLY GM SOYA EXPERIMENT DESTROYED
A crop of Monsanto's GM soybeans was destroyed in Yawara, Ibaragi prefecture, Japan when it was plowed into the soil by protesters.
GM MAIZE DESTRUCTION ORDERED IN ITALY
Italy's Piedmont region ordered the destruction of 381 hectares of maize fields which were GM contaminated. According to an official with Italy's largest farmer's organisation, "Anyone who does not obey the order will be breaking the law."
Most of the maize was quickly destroyed but representatives of Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred were reported to have been contacting farmers one by one to try and convince them not to destroy the crops. According to an Italian press piece, the "criminal authorities" are already "investigating Pioneer Hi-Bred Italia's chief executive Giuseppe Manara for breaching a 1971 seed law". Commercial sowing of GM seeds is banned in Italy under a "zero tolerance" policy.
SCHMEISER BATTLE HEADS TO SUPREME COURT
Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser is preparing to take on Monsanto in Canada's's Supreme Court. Schmeiser, a sprightly 72-year-old from Bruno, Saskatchewan, is resisting Monsanto's attempts to enforce its patent rights over GM canola seeds. The outcome of the case could have major implications not just for GM crops, but for the patenting of genetic techniques in many other areas.
Schmeiser's battle with Monsanto dates back to 1998, when it accused him of planting the company's GM canola (oilseed rape) on his land without permission, and demanded that he pay it the same fee required of those growing GM crops under contract.
Schmeiser refused, saying he'd never planted the company's seed but Monsanto claimed the level of herbicide resistance in the crop was such that it could not have happened accidentally. The company did not prove this claim in court - it did not need to. Because the judge ruled that it did not matter how the seed came to be in Schmeiser's field even if it were from road-side spillage or cross-contamination. Schmeiser was deemed to have infringed the company's patent rights simply by growing and harvesting it without permission, even though he did not spray the crop with Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller and therefore did not benefit from the altered genetic structure of the plant.
Stuart Wells, of the Canadian National Farmers' Union, says the ruling has deterred some farmers from complaining when they find unwanted GM "volunteers" or "weeds" in their fields. "It's sort of a Catch-22 situation, if the farmer has no control whatsoever, and might end up in the sort of trouble that Monsanto is heaping on Percy Schmeiser."
Schmeiser's lawyers have been heartened by a recent ruling from the same court involving the "Harvard Mouse". In that case, Harvard University claimed a patent on a mouse genetically altered to make it more susceptible to cancer for use in medical research, but the court ruled that a "higher life form" could not be classed as an invention.
Percy Schmeiser has had to mortgage much of his land to pay his legal fees, and admits that the five-year battle has caused enormous stress, but he says he does not regret it. "We felt that what we were fighting for was not only for ourselves, but for farmers around the world, for their right to use their own seed. That's why we stood up to them."
CORPORATE TAKEOVER OF GOVERNMENT
BIOTECH MONEY IN POLITICS
BASF, Bayer, Dow Chemical's Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta have spent big bucks... to influence the regulations governing their industry. From 1998-2002, the companies spent more than $53 million to lobby the US federal government. Since 1989, the companies have contributed more than $12 million in individual, PAC and soft money donations, 77 percent to Republicans.
READ THE REPORT: http://www.capitaleye.org/
HOW MONSANTO'S POLICIES HAVE BECOME U.S. POLICY
Prior to being the Supreme Court Judge who put G.W. in office, Clarence Thomas was Monsanto's lawyer. The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (Anne Veneman) was on the Board of Directors of Monsanto's Calgene Corporation. The Secretary of Defense (Donald Rumsfeld) was on the Board of Directors of Monsanto's Searle pharmaceuticals. The U.S. Secretary of Health, Tommy Thompson, received $50,000 in donations from Monsanto during his winning campaign for Wisconsin's governor. The two congressmen receiving the most donations from Monsanto during the last election were Larry Combest (Chairman of the House Agricultural Committee) and Attorney General John Ashcroft. (Source: Dairy Education Board via ORGANIC BYTES)
CORPORATE TAKEOVER OF SCIENCE
SCIENCE MEDIA CENTRE'S DODGY WELCOME TO THE SCIENCE REVIEW
The SMC which claims to be independent of industry and to represent the broad range of voices of the scientific community in Britain, but whose funders include Astra Zeneca, Dupont, and Pfizer, has issued a press release welcoming the government's science review. It's made up a list of quotes from pro-GM scientists, several close colleagues of those who sat on the science review panel. Not only is this not dislosed but neither is the fact that two scientists presented simply as a 'Reader in Ecology' and a 'Visiting Professor of Biology' are biotech industry-funded lobbyists from CropGen!
CORPORATE CONQUEST OF NATURE (MAGAZINE)
The pro-GM/anti-organic editorial in the current edition of the journal Nature would seem to mark the journal's final capitulation to the very academic-industrial complex that its editor Phil Campbell once warned against. Read the editorial along with more about Campbell's role in the Chapela affair and Nature's links with Syngenta (which funded a big propaganda feature for GM foods in the journal) at
WHEN'S A RETRACTION NOT A RETRACTION?
Read an excerpt from Andy Rowell's book Don't Worry, It's Safe to Eat, on Campbell/Nature's craven role in the Chapela affair - the fudging, the double-speak and self-contradiction, the conflicts of interest. It also deals with the Syngenta connections of Chapela's main critics:
ANGER AT ADVISERS' BIOTECH LINKS
Dozens of the Government's most influential advisers on critical health and environmental issues have close links to biotech and drug corporations, according to a dossier of Whitehall documents obtained by The Observer. Internal papers from the Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra) reveal the extent of the close connections between big business and scientists hired to give independent advice to ministers. Many work as consultants for the firms, own shares in the companies or enjoy lucrative research grants from them.
The Observer contacted many of the Government's scientific advisers, who denied that their links to industry compromised the impartiality of their advice. Professor Alan Boobis, a former deputy chairman of the committee which examines the safety of pesticides who received research funding from GlaxoSmithKline for his department at Imperial College but never declared it, said: "It is almost inevitable that any scientists of international repute will have some current or past links with industry. To say we would risk our professional integrity because we own a few shares in a company is ridiculous."
CORPORATE SCIENCE CORRUPTION PROVEN
Perhaps Boobis hasn't read the January 1998 study in The New England Journal of Medicine (vol. 338, no.2) on the impact of conflicts of interest on scientific judgements. The study showed a strong association between authors' published positions on product safety and their financial relationships with the relevant industry.
or via contents page at:
...AND PROVEN AGAIN!
More recently a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reveals a significant association between industry sponsorship and pro-industry results (J. E. Bekelman, Y. Li & C. P. Gross, J. Am. Med. Assoc. 289, 454-465; 2003). The JAMA analysis concludes that industry-sponsored studies are nearly four times more likely to reach pro-industry conclusions than are studies that are not industry-sponsored.
Nature 424, 369 (24 July 2003); doi:10.1038/424369c
FAILURE TO DISCLOSE FUNDING BY ROUSH AND OTHERS FORCES SCIENCE MAG TO CHANGE POLICY ON DISCLOSURE
Prof Rick Roush is a former chief executive officer of the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Australian Weed Management in Adelaide. He's also a former member of Australia's Genetic Manipulation Advisory Committee as well as being a pro-GM activist who has left his mark on many listservs, from several of which he has been banned or has 'retired' in the face of complaint.
Last year a study by Roush and his CRC colleagues was published in the American journal Science. The team had studied canola (OSR) pollen drift on trial fields in southern Australia and claimed to have found that unwanted gene transfer occurred in such minute quantities, at 0.07 per cent, that they believed non-GM crops were "not in any danger".
An article in Nature casts further light on the study, and others where funding is not being disclosed. It includes the following, "one contributor didn't feel that his position as chief scientist of a firm that was supporting his academic work needed to be mentioned as he didn't think the paper would affect the company's stock price."
EXCERPT FROM THE ARTICLE IN NATURE:
Earlier this year, Australian activists noticed that a 2002 paper on the spread of herbicide resistance from transgenic canola to nearby fields (M. A. Rieger, M. Lamond, C. Preston, S. B. Powles and R. T. Roush Science 296, 2386-2388; 2002) did not mention that two biotechnology firms - Monsanto and Aventis Crop Sciences (now owned by Bayer) - paid nearly 20% of the costs of the trials.
Alerted to the fact by a reporter for an Australian television programme in early May, Science contacted the authors for an explanation. Science requires contributors to declare financial ties that might be construed as influencing the outcome of their research.
Although Science concluded that the funding did not amount to a conflict of interest, it has now revised its disclosure policy as a direct result of the incident, according to a statement provided to Nature on 23 June. Now, all funding sources must be revealed in the paper's reference section, Science says.
INQUIRY URGED INTO UNIVERSITY BIOTECH LINKS
According to Dr Mae-Wan Ho, speaking to Red Pepper magazine, most of the research departments in Britain's top universities are now heavily reliant on private funding. A survey for the Institute of Professional Managers carried out in public and recently privatised laboratories found that 1/3 of all scientists have been asked to change research findings to suit the customers preferred outcomes, whilst 10% had had pressure put on them to actually bend results in order to secure contracts. Dr Ho is calling for an inquiry into university-biotech links.
QUOTES OF THE MONTH
"Locking me up won't help the government to get people to accept genetically modified foods or multinationals controlling agriculture."
- Jose Bove on his release from prison
"Far from taking over world agriculture, GM crops represent less than 5% of world farm acreage. Hesitant markets, as well as scientific uncertainty, will continue to slow their spread in Europe and Asia."
- The Economist (magazine)
"The buzz word in Britain is that we can have 'co-existence' between the GM sector and the organic or conventional sector. What Canada shows, who have been trying to do this for the last seven years, is that it is absolutely impossible. You have to make a choice, and the choice frankly is: are we going to go for GM, for which there is no market and no-one wants to buy at the expense of organic, which people do want to buy and for which there is a tremendous market? You cannot have both."
- Former environment minister Michael Meacher on a tour of Canadian farms
"I think we have to acknowledge that segregation isn't possible. There will still be a choice, it just won't be the same as it used to be."
- Professor Vivian Moses, confirming that preventing GM contamination is impossible at a recent meeting in the West Country
"We see [Starlink] every week and just about every day."
- James Bair, vice president of the North American Millers' Association, quoted in StarLink corn still shows up, Omaha WORLD-HERALD, July 30 2003
"Apart from the GM companies and the American Administration, who is pushing the commercialisation of GM crops? The public won't buy them. The supermarkets won't stock them. There are no overriding economic incentives, scientific risks to health and the environment remain unanswered, coexistence is impossible."
- Peter Lundgren, a board member of the new farming organisation "farm"
"Is it too cynical to suggest that having a black African as the face of a multinational chemical company is a spin doctor's dream? This seems to have lobotomised some journalists who have treated [Florence Wambugu's] views like the tablets from the Mount. Even the normally rigorous Jon Faine interviewed her in a way that was almost fawning."
Rankin McKay, GM science can be blinding, Herald Sun, July 30, 2003
For more on Wambugu: http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=1016
"Claims that GMOs are necessary for the food security of poor people in developing countries should not be used to promote public acceptance of GM by the UK public. We believe such claims are misleading and fail to acknowledge the complexities of poverty reduction and household food security in developing countries."
- Directors of the British Overseas Aid Group - BOAG - including Action
Aid, CAFOD, Christian Aid, OXFAM GB and Save the Children UK.
"Maybe there is no problem with GM foods. But if they do harm people's health, it will be no minor problem. As products of genetic technology, they might affect several generations of people. We should be cautious."
- Wang Jie, an official of China's State Environmental Protection Administration
"If anyone says GM is safe, they are lying because the testing simply hasn't been done. People compare GM crops with nuclear waste but at least that has a half life. If we release this technology, it will be there forever."
- Andy Rowell, author of Don't Worry, It's Safe to Eat
JOKE OF THE MONTH
YES TO GM: RAELIANS DEMONSTRATE NAKED!
from a Press Release: Raelian Movement
In response to the event "Bare Witness" which took place in Great Britain this past June 29th where 30 demonstrators gathered fully naked to form the words: "No GM", more than 300 naked Raelians will gather to form the words "I love GM".
In his most recent book "Yes, to human cloning", His Holiness RAEL, founder and spiritual leader of the Raelian Movement, devotes an entire chapter to GM. It has been 30 years now that His Holiness RAEL has been saying that everything will be achievable through science, this very science which is at the origin of all life forms on Earth. This was revealed to Him on December 13th 1973 by beings coming from another planet. Genetically modified foods, nanotechnology, cloning, and many other technologies prove that it is impossible to stop science.
The demonstration took place apparently on Monday July 14th at UFOland. Whether the Raelians were joined by other members of the GM lobby is unknown
NOT SO FUNNY
Human cloned pregnancies 'in progress', Oct 4 2002
The Raelians say they've got babies...Several viable human pregnancies are in progress in which cloned test-tube embryos were implanted in host mothers, but the rate of miscarriage is higher than normal, the head of a human cloning firm said yesterday. "Yes, we have viable pregnancies, that is to say three months or more," French chemist Brigitte Boisselier, president of the firm Clonaid, told AFP in a telephone interview from Clonaid headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada
CAMPAIGN OF THE MONTH
SUPPORT STRONGER PESTICIDES LAW
I hope subscribers will indulge me this month by supporting an important pesticides campaign that is indirectly, rather than directly, related to GM (GM crops are, of course, pesticide junkies and the companies that make unwanted GM foods are only still in business because people keep buying the pesticides made by those same companies).
The campaign impacts on the health and well-being of many people in this country and this will likely be the last chance for a long time to have a say on this issue.
This consultation asks whether there should be buffer zones between crop-sprayed farmland and people's homes; and whether the public should have access to information about the pesticides sprayed near their homes. At the moment, farmers can spray toxic pesticides right up to your property boundary and they don't have to warn you in advance or tell you what they are using, which can cause problems when you take your symptoms to your GP, poisons unit or homeopath.
Our government has chosen the month of August (when almost everyone is on holiday and/or busy with children and when activists' attention is captivated by the GM "debate") to hold this consultation, which they haven't told the public about. The bodies they've consulted with are mainly chemical companies and farmers' organisations, with just a handful of the big green organisations like FoE and Greenpeace. The vast majority of these consultees will want things to continue as they are.
Currently, residents are classed as "Bystanders", and the risk assessments regulating use of pesticides were carried out on the assumption that you are just passing through a sprayed field and get a short exposure. But residents can be exposed to sprayed fields for long periods and repeatedly over the growing season, so such risk assessments don't come near addressing their problem.
This situation will get worse if GM crops are grown here, as it is well established that the only "advantage" of GM crops is that farmers can spray the heck out of them without killing them. Already, the rules on glyphosate residues and winter spraying of glufosinate ammonium have been relaxed, allegedly to suit the needs of GM companies.
The government has been bounced into this consultation by residents who have been made seriously ill by nearby spraying. But the government seems to be wedded to the idea that things are just fine as they are, with no buffer zones and no public access to information on what you are being exposed to.
The preamble to the consultation doc is highly biased. It talks emotively of unsprayed land being "lost" to cultivation (organic farmers and conventional farmers who grow crops without toxic pesticides may be shocked to hear they have "lost" their land) Worse, it says "The present scientific view is that on the basis of the information currently available the risk assessment for bystanders used at present provides adequate protection" and "there are only a dozen or so cases of people [who have suffered ill effects] reported to the Health and Safety Executive [HSE] each year".
This last reason is a very sick joke, considering that
*even those people who connect their illness with spraying often have trouble convincing their doctor that there is a connection
*even those doctors who accept the connection often do not report it to anyone and indeed do not know to whom they should report it
*the poisons units of many hospitals are sponsored by chemical companies who may have, shall we say, conflicts of interest over what they report and to whom
*even in my small homeopathic practice, I can count 10 people who report short or long-term illness from exposure to pesticide spraying. So what planet is the HSE living on with their dozen complainants per year? Answer: one where few know about the reporting system and even fewer follow it.
IT'S VITAL THAT AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE RESPOND TO THIS "CONSULTATION" BY THE LAST DAY OF AUGUST. Visit
You can submit your views in a letter to Russell Wedgbury, Pesticides Safety Directorate, Mallard House, Kings Pool no 3, Peasholme Green, York YO1 7PX
Or fax him at 01904 455733