The Worm at Work

As many of you will have seen, there's been a hugely controversial pro-GM conference taking place in Ireland this week at University College Cork (UCC). The ABIC 2008 conference, at UCC from August 24-27, is entitled Agricultural Biotechnology for a Competitive and Sustainable Future.

One of the conference's star pro-GM turns was Dr Charlie Spillane of UCC, who's not only chairman of the ABIC Programme Committee but heads the GM lab at UCC that the Canadian Government bureaucrat, Shane Morris, retreated to at the height of the controversy over his "wormy corn" study.

Before the opening of the ABIC event, Kathy Sinnott MEP and Michael O'Callaghan of GM-free Ireland held a press conference at which they criticized the support of seven Irish Government agencies for the conference, and called on the Government to fund an independent conference on GM-free food and farming, in line with official Government policy.

According to Michael O'Callaghan, "Shane Morris turned up uninvited at the press conference and then repeatedly held a series of bits of paper with the words 'bullshit', 'pure bull', 'incorrect', 'lies' etc. whenever one of the speakers said something he didn't approve of, just like a trained monkey! In the questions and answers session after our presentations, he kept interrupting the speakers. I had to ask him to shut up!" 

Outside the conference where protesters were gathered, Morris was spotted waving a notice about saying "Down with this kind of thing" - apparently inspired by a scene from the "Father Ted" TV series!

We have also heard from a conference participant concerning a poster exhibit Morris had at the event reporting some research he's doing into the views of Irish scientists about GM, and guess what? There's the suggestion it might have a skewed sample! Here are the comments we received:

"The attached text is from the conference programme.
The text is almost verbatim apart from the several important words, included in the poster.
The writers of this short report claim on the poster that their poll covered academic staff from all 7 Irish Universities, from diverse backgrounds such as 'food science, microbiology, genetics etc... '
Not so diverse, I say.
On their poster they go on to say that medical personnel were not polled.
I'm sure they have a perfectly legitimate reason to leave medics out, but you certainly cannot say that you have analyzed a cross section of Uni staff.
I wonder what the results show with medics included?
Their results are still quite startling.
35% of Irish scientists would not buy GM baby food.
40% would not buy GM of any kind.
And these percentages come from a questionable sample."

Wormy corn, anyone?

Notes: The text referred to above is from the Abstracts of the ABIC 2008 poster sessions (published by the Irish Government agency Teagasc, which co-sponsored the conference): Poster Session II: Longitudinal analysis of Irish university scientists opinion of GM food/crops (1999-2008) by Morris, Shane. H. (1x), Mullins, Ewen (2), and Spillane, Charles (1). 1. Genetics and Biotechonolgy Lab, Dept of Biotechemistry & Biosciences Institute, University College Cork, Ireland. Website: 2. TEAGASC Crops Research Centre, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland.

For more on the "wormy corn" scandal see:
Michael Meacher MP - correspondence with High Commissioner for Canada
Corn fakes, Private Eye, November 2007
Corn on the cobblers, Private Eye, January 2008
Leading Experts Demand Retraction of "Wormy Corn" Paper from British Food Journal, January 2008
UK House of Commons: Early Day Motion condemns Shane Morris