31 January 2003
BMA UNDER ATTACK
There's clearly an industry-orchestrated attack underway on the British Medical Association as a result of their submission to the Health Committee of the Scottish Parliament – a submission which, together with other evidence from scientists concerned about the dangers of genetic engineering, the committee clearly found more persuasive than the submissions of the UK Government's advisory committees, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Prof Tony Trewavas FRS etc.
At the time of the BMA submission, a letter was written to the press by Dr Peter Lachmann denying broad support within the medical community for the BMA's stance. This was a remarkable claim given that the BMA represents 80% or more of UK doctors. Lachmann is the leading Fellow of the Royal Society who was identified by the editor of the Lancet, Richard Horton, as having tried to get him to stop the Lancet's publication of Pusztai and Ewen's peer-reviewed research by threatening Horton with the loss of his job.
This week pro-GM scientists from Africa, including representatives of the notorious AfricaBio lobby group, have been brought to Europe by the biotech industry to support its cause with the European Union. One of them, Dr Luke Mumba, a molecular biologist at the University of Zambia, appears to have made a statement which has been passed to the aggressively pro-GM journalist Andy Coghlan of the New Scientist as "an exclusive", saying the BMA had been particularly influential in relation to Zambia's decision to reject GM food aid. Coghlan used this to pressurise various BMA spokespeople and his New Scientist piece (item 1) creates the impression that the BMA's position is equivocal and out-dated. It makes no mention of the fact that the BMA has recently and unequivocally restated its official position to the Health Committee of the Scottish Parliament.
The article notes that the BMA will be holding "round table" talks at some point to decide whether its 1999 policy statement on GM foods needs formally updating. This is an entirely routine procedure but this has now been spun to the media in a further disinformation exercise, and today there have been reports on the BBC implying that the BMA is to rethink its position because it is so out of date and is based on now "discredited research"! The source for these claims can only be guessed at although we gather it is unlikely to be from wihin the BMA and the reference to "discredited research" is, of course, highly suggestive.
Meanwhile the Zambian end of the BMA attack may also bear closer inspection. Dr Luke Mumba does not originally appear to have been part of the industry camp. In March of this year it was reported in the Zambian press:
"University of Zambia School of natural sciences Dean Dr Luke Mumba says, unlike chemical or nuclear contamination, gene pollution cannot be cleaned up. He adds, toxic effects of genetic mistakes, will be passed on to all future generations of species. 'Once released, it is virtually impossible to recall genetically engineered organisms back to the laboratory or the field. Genetically engineered products carry more risks than traditional foods,' points out Dr Mumba." The Times of Zambia, March 12, 2002
By the summer, however, he was sounding a very different note, "All of us who consider ourselves to be experts in biotechnology must accept that we have not done enough to guide our policy makers on the subject. Each time we are afforded a forum we are invariably issuing contradictory statements on GM maize and biotechnology in general. Little wonder that our government is to date undecided on whether or not to accept maize aid from the US", Safety of GMOs by Dr. Luke Mumba, The Post, Zambia, July 29, 2002.
This Mumba article was full of reassurances, "Biotechnology companies are under obligation to ensure that all the genetically improved crops they produce comply with all national and international guidelines. Their survival as companies is dependent on complying with regulations and consumer expectations."
The reason for the disappearance of his earlier caution remains unexplained. The second item below presents a very different opinion from Dr Mumba's within the Zambian academic community as to what is going on:
"THE United States is being driven by business motives in their wish to supply genetically modified (GM) maize to Zambia, charged University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers Union (UNZALARU) secretary general Dr. Timothy Mwanza yesterday... Dr Mwanza said... as a union, they were worried because some experts had allegedly been bought-off to convince the government that GM maize was safe." (item 2)
Return to archive to see:
1.Zambia's GM food fear traced to UK
2.UNZALARU accuses US of being driven by business motivation over GMOs