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Scientists under attack - major GM workshop
Scientists under attack - reaction to research on the environmental and health impacts of GM crops - a major GM workshop at the Soil Association's annual conference on 8 January 2005
Speakers: Professor Ignacio Chapela, Dr Arpad Pusztai, Dr Terje Traavik and with Dr Andrew Stirling in the chair
Saturday, 8 January 2005 4.30pm - 6.00, Slow Food lunch 1.00 - 3.30; Newcastle Civic Centre [UK]
The Soil Association's national conference will include a major workshop on GM. For the first time ever Dr Arpad Pusztai, Dr Terje Traavik and Ignacio Chapela - the three leading international scientists attacked and undermined by biotech companies and their supporters for raising health or environmental concerns about GM crops or food - are appearing together on a public platform. The meeting will be chaired by Dr Andrew Stirling of Sussex University.
Discussion will cover how the GM lobby has attempted to stifle research questioning the safety of GM products, whether the concerns raised by these scientists are valid, and what was the impact of the controversy has been on the scientists themselves. As an extra benefit you will also be able to enjoy an unforgettable (and guaranteed no GM) organic slow food lunch just before the workshop session.
The speakers are Dr Arpad Pusztai, Dr Terje Traavik, Scientific Director, Norwegian Institute of Gene Ecology, School of Medicine, University of Tromso and Ignacio Chapela Assistant Professor of Microbial Ecology, University of California, Berkley. All three have felt the backlash when they found evidence that did not suit the GM industry and pro-GM scientists. Arpad Pusztai's notorious treatment by his employers and the Royal Society is well known. Ignacio Chapela's findings of contaminated maize in Mexico led to him being refused tenure (a dispute still firmly in the news) and to the withdrawal of his paper by Nature. Terje Traavik works in a country with a more rational and impartial view on GM than either the UK or the USA, which has reduced the personal impact of his announcement of findings of possible adverse health impacts on people living near a GM crop, but not the world-wide attack that followed.
The Chair, Dr. Stirling, was a member of the UK Government GM Science Advisory Panel which was established last year to produce a report on GM scientific issues as part of the 'GM debate'. The Panel was chaired by the Government's Chief Scientist, Sir David King, but consisted mainly of scientists in favour of GM. The Government's official minutes of one of the meetings record that a leading figure in UK science advice system on GM, approached a major funding body urging them to remove Dr. Stirling from an advisory role in which he was then serving The reason was the sceptical position that he was taking in the GM Science Review Panel. The attempt was unsuccessful, and this provides the first instance in the UK of official acknowledgement of the reality of this kind of pressure.
There will be plenty of time for questions and discussion with the audience.
The Soil Association Slow Food lunch on Saturday 8 January will have organic and wild food, and drink, from all over the UK. You will be able to taste and buy the very best that small-scale, organic artisan producers have to offer. The emphasis will be on good provenance and great taste, with plenty of regionally distinctive foods and recipes from around 60 producers. The Slow Food lunch will be served at Newcastle Civic Centre.
The Soil Association's 17th annual conference, with 600 delegates already booked, promises to be the biggest and best yet. The main three days of the event (7-9 January) are being organised jointly by the Soil Association and the Quality Low Input Food (QLIF) project - a GBP12 million five-year
European research and training initiative led by Professor Carlo Leifert at Newcastle University. QLIF brings together 31 research institutions, universities and companies throughout Europe and beyond. Its aim is to help maximise the health benefits generated through organic and low-input agriculture by enabling farmers, growers and processors to deliver food safety and improve the nutritional quality of what they produce (see www.qlif.org).
To book visit http://www.soilassociation.org/conference download a booking form and fax or post it to us.
We hope you'll want to come for the whole conference - there is plenty for anyone interested in the real alternative to GM crops and pesticide dependant farming (and there is a technical workshop on 'Strategies to avoid GM contamination' chaired by Ralph Martin, Nova Scotia Agricultural College, Canada, on the Friday afternoon).
The programme for the special half-day offer is:
12.45 - 3.45pm Soil Association Slow Food Lunch and Marketplace - Newcastle Civic Centre
3.45pm Tea Newcastle Civic Centre
4.30pm - 6.00 Scientists under attack - reaction to research on the environmental and health impacts of GM crops - Newcastle University lecture theatre (room number to be confirmed on booking, or see information at Newcastle Civic Centre)