Royal Society launch attack on Michael Meacher
Meanwhile, after the FSA's questionable Meacher response yesterday, the RS (themselves the ultimate self-interested science-spinmeisters) launch a personal attack on Meacher for daring to question their corporate science agenda on GM. Meacher's concerns are all "spin" and "ideological opposition", apparently.
Find out about the Royal Society & Big Business including an article by Dr Tom Wakeford on the corruption of the UK's science institutions and how it has encouraged uncritical support for GM crops.
Former environment minister has distorted GM facts, says Lord May
Press release, 25 June 2003
In response to newspaper articles by the former environment minister, Michael Meacher, published in 'The Independent on Sunday' and 'The Daily Mail', Lord May of Oxford, the President of the Royal Society and former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government, has today (25 June 2003) issued the following statement.
"The recent newspaper articles by Mr Meacher appear to show an ideological opposition to GM crops, and present a severely distorted account of the scientific facts and uncertainties surrounding GM foods. By quoting very selectively from the Royal Society report on GM plants published last year, Mr Meacher has also shown that he is not averse to applying his own spin to the scientific evidence on GM. I would like to correct a number of the points made in the articles.
"Although Mr Meacher refers to our report, he conspicuously fails to mention its principal conclusion that there is no scientific reason to doubt the safety of foods made from GM ingredients that are currently available, nor to believe that genetic modification makes GM foods inherently less safe than their conventional counterparts.
"Our report noted that some form of 'substantial equivalence', beginning with a direct comparison of a new GM foodstuff with its conventional counterpart, is the only practical way of evaluating the safety of GM foods. However, we did recommend that 'substantial equivalence' should be made more explicit and objective during safety assessments before any new GM foodstuffs are approved, and that these methods should be harmonised between Member States of the European Union. But we cannot agree with Mr Meacher that 'substantial equivalence' is "scientifically vacuous", and a number of bodies, including the World Health Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, have devoted a lot of time and effort to addressing this issue.
"The report pointed out that genetic modification may be used in future to improve the quality of food, which again Mr Meacher appears unwilling to acknowledge. Such foods could, however, also have unintended adverse impacts on nutrition. As babies are particularly vulnerable to changes in the nutritional content of their food, UK and EU laws should ensure rigorous tests are carried out if GM ingredients are ever considered for use in infant formula.
"Mr Meacher also tries to link allergies to GM foods. Our report makes clear that there is no evidence that GM foods that are commercially available at present cause greater allergic reactions than their conventional counterparts. Assertions to the contrary, such as those cited by Mr Meacher, do not stand up when subjected to systematic analysis, as was shown for example a couple of years ago in a study by the United States Center for Disease Control.
"Mr Meacher attempts to play up the uncertainties surrounding the techniques of genetic modification. A balanced account would also have pointed out that each act of conventional cross-breeding leads to the shuffling of far greater numbers of genes in an uncontrolled way.
"It is perhaps helpful that Mr Meacher has now made his ideological stance so explicit, so that the public can judge for themselves his statements on GM science."
For further information contact:
Bob Ward, Press and Public Relations, The Royal Society, London
Tel: 020 7451 2516 or 07811 320346