SAC stands for Scottish Agricultural College. The report is apparently based on computer projections - a research approach that is highly dependent on what assumptions are built in.
The Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) who commisssioned the report represent the big biotech corporations in the UK. Marantelli, the contact given at the end, is an ex-Monsanto PR man who moved over to PR company Lexington Communications when they won the ABC's account in the run up to the great debate in the UK. See:http://society.guardian.co.uk/societyguardian/story/0,7843,921537,00.html
Note that Murphy rightly complains that parts of the SAC report "may be witheld from the final version and it will not be peer reviewed" but goes on to claim, "We must maintain the highest standards of scientific and academic rigour in confronting the GM crops/food issue. It was such an approach that has demonstrated deficiencies in aspects of the previous studies by the groups of Pusztai (GM potatoes), Losely [sic] (monarch butterflies) and Chapela (GM maize)."
In fact, all 3 studies that he refers to were successfully peer reviewed with a majority of reviewers in each case recommending publication.
Given the vigorous industry-backed assault on such successfully peer-reviewed studies, the prior hyping of the SAC study is all the more indefensible - though hardly unique!
For more on how the work of research scientists is manipulated through the media by the biotechnology industry:http://www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex/Documents/sugar-beet-paper-commentary.htm
---Re: Scottish Agricultural College Study on GM technology?
- Denis Murphy, Biotechnology Unit, Univ Glamorgan, UK
This is a response to the request of Drew Kershen of Univ Oklahoma in the last Agbioview (14 June) for more info about the SAC study.
Last week the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) announced to the UK press that a new report showed that "GM technology is safe, compatible with conventional farming and has the potential to boost the income of UK agriculture by at least GBP 50m". An account of this report was published on Agbioview on 12 June.
Like many others with an interest in GM crops, I was keen to see the report, especially as I am currently involved in public debates and media events as part of the ongoing UK GM crops consultation. I thought that data compiled by an authoritative body like the SAC would probably be of use in these discussions. However, when I contacted SAC I was surprised to be told that: "The analysis is done and the client was keen to get to press. However, the final report remains in draft form and we are currently negotiating its confidentiality."
I was puzzled by this because the ABC press releases and interviews given by their spokesman had already presented details of the data. Also, the Agbioview piece on 12 June had stated: "According to a report published in Edinburgh this week...", ie nothing about a draft but definitely implying a real published report was available.
So I contacted ABC & was told by a helpful spokesman that: "as mentioned below the final report, is just being written, and we expect this task to be complete in a matter of weeks. I have placed you on this list to receive it as soon as it is publicly available. Naturally we are working to make this report as robust as possible in these highly charged times."
This is fine and I am sure that the eventual report from an institute as prestigious as SAC will be scientifically rigorous - but why the premature press release in what ABC admit are "these highly charged times"? Also if there are confidentiality issues in the report, how will we know whether we will be told the whole story?
I come away from this feeling rather troubled at the way a reputable institute has apparently been dragged into a very polarised debate and at how a supposedly scientific study may not end up being fully reliable,ie parts may be witheld from the final version and it will not be peer reviewed.
We must maintain the highest standards of scientific and academic rigour in confronting the GM crops/food issue. It was such an approach that has demonstrated deficiencies in aspects of the previous studies by the groups of Pusztai (GM potatoes), Losely (monarch butterflies) and Chapela (GM maize). The same standards should apply to any studies that make scientific claims on this or other subjects. Otherwise we scientists will be placed on the same level as many of the anti-GM activists who are the subject of so much opprobrium in these pages.
This item was posted to the pro-GM Prakash list.