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Anti-GE Luddites Have Science on Our Side


The following article by Professor Ann Clark on GM food safety research
reaches an almost identical conclusion to my own independent six-month
investigation of the data - namely that there are NO INDEPENDENT
PUBLISHED RESULTS OF FEEDING TRIALS OF GM CROPS
anywhere in the world. This is despite the fact that there are now dozens
of GM foods that have been approved by various governments, despite
the fact that there are now probably over 100,000 full time biotechnologists
n the world and despite the fact that complaints about the absence of safety
evidence have been made continually for over three years. Major publications
such as Science, Nature and the Lancet have reached similar conclusions, as
has the Royal Society of Canada, a committee of Irish GPs and the EU-US
Biotechnology Consultative Forum. The fact - or the absence of facts, to be
precise - is now indisputable. Government and industry spokespersons now
defend GM foods only by declaring that "no-one has been harmed by them"
but there is no monitoring going on to detect such harm. One can only conclude
that there must be a strict and undeclared global moratorium on safety research
to ensure that no proof of danger emerges - as Dr Pusztai and others have
discovered to their cost.

Now is the time to write to politicians and Government food safety
departments to demand an immediate Five Year Moratorium on GM food and crops
to provide time for proper safety research - and to demand an end to what is
obviously a global moratorium on such research.

ROBERT VINT, National Co-ordinator, GENETIC FOOD ALERT
coordinator@geneticfoodalert.org.uk www.geneticfoodalert.org.uk
Tel: 01803 868523
4, Bertram House, Ticklemore Street, TOTNES, Devon TQ9 5EJ UK
***********************************************
EXTRACT:
One common criticism in many such studies is the near absence of credible
scientific evidence upon which to assess environmental and food safety
risks. Last June, the prestigious journal Science reported a detailed
database search by Jose Domingo, who could find a grand total of just eight
refereed journal articles dealing with any aspect of the safety of GM
foods. The eight included only four actual feeding trials, of which three
were from Monsanto teams.

The final report of the elite, hand-picked EU-U.S. Biotechnology
Consultative Forum, which came out in December, 2000, stated, "There is a
lack of substantial scientific data and evidence, often (presented) more as
personal interpretations disguised as scientifically validated statements."
The full report is available at http://europa.eu.int

COMPLETE ARTICLE
***********************************************

"LUDDITES" GET SOME AMMUNITION

Prof. Ann Clark, Toronto Star [Canada] March 12, 2001 www.thestar.com

[Ann Clark is an associate professor of plant agriculture at the University
of Guelph].

Until recently, people tended to identify most of the concern about GM
agriculture with groups such as the Council of Canadians, Greenpeace, and
Friends of the Earth. Industry proponents wasted little time in painting
these people as misinformed, hysterical greenies. But thanks to those
groups, informed citizen opposition has slowed adoption of GM crops to a
crawl, providing much-needed breathing space for senior scientists,
lawyers, and physicians to reflect upon the issues and begin to speak out.

Proponent efforts to paint the opposition as ill-informed malcontents and
Luddites sound increasingly silly in the face of the significant doubts now
reaching the public media from prestigious scientific analysts.

One common criticism in many such studies is the near absence of credible
scientific evidence upon which to assess environmental and food safety
risks. Last June, the prestigious journal Science reported a detailed
database search by Jose Domingo, who could find a grand total of just eight
refereed journal articles dealing with any aspect of the safety of GM
foods. The eight included only four actual feeding trials, of which three
were from Monsanto teams.

The final report of the elite, hand-picked EU-U.S. Biotechnology
Consultative Forum, which came out in December, 2000, stated, "There is a
lack of substantial scientific data and evidence, often (presented) more as
personal interpretations disguised as scientifically validated statements."
The full report is available at http://europa.eu.int

The Royal Society of Canada just came out with a new report entitled The
Future of Food Biotechnology. Elements Of Precaution: Recommendations For
The Regulation Of Food Biotechnology in Canada.

This group of distinguished senior scientists identified numerous critical
failings in the Canadian GM regulatory process, and were particularly
critical of the pivotal role accorded the unscientific concept of
"substantial equivalence." The report is available at http://www.rsc.ca

In another recent issue of Science, U.S. government scientists LaReesa
Wolfenbarger and Paul Phifer noted that "key experiments on both the
environmental risks and benefits are lacking." They identified numerous
critical deficiencies in the evidence that would need to be rectified
before determining whether GM crops are indeed safe for the environment.
Each of these studies calls for substantially increased research to figure
out whether any risk exists, let alone how to test for such risk or what to
do about it.

In effect, governments have authorized the commercial release of almost 50
GM crops, which were sown over 100 million acres in 1999 (71 per cent in
the U.S., 17 per cent in Argentina, and 10 per cent in Canada), and yet we
still don't know enough to even identify the food safety and environmental
risks, let alone test for them.

In a nutshell, we don't know enough about basic gene function, the
complexity of metabolic pathways, and the ecological implications of even
modest genetic modifications to be doing what we are doing, commercially.
As stated colloquially by Craig Venter, head of the Celera team that
recently decoded the human genome, "We don't know s--t about biology."

With a virtual absence of refereed support for their beliefs, industry
proponents insist there is still ample evidence of the safety of GM crops,
pointing to voluminous internal industry and government reports. But how
credible are these reports if they are not of a sufficient calibre to be
published in a refereed journal?

The requirement for publishing in a refereed journal is universally
accepted in the scientific community. Authors are required to submit their
work to review and critical comment from peers in the field to ensure the
quality and integrity of the research. This is neither academic trivia nor
overblown rhetoric, but is deadly earnest. Careers have been destroyed by
this very issue, strange though it may seem.

Two years ago, Arpad Pusztai Ñ a world-renowned authority on plant proteins
and nutrition, with nearly 300 refereed publications to his credit Ñ was
fired and treated disgracefully by his own colleagues for committing the
unforgivable sin of speaking publicly about his concerns about GM food
safety prior to publishing his findings in a refereed journal. Pusztai had
conducted meticulous studies that found organ size and intestinal integrity
were hurt in rats fed potatoes that had been genetically modified to
include genes from snowdrop lectin. Worse yet, rats fed plain potatoes
sprinkled with snowdrop lectin did not show these effects. The study
suggested that the problem related to the transgenic process, not the
product.

Does it seem odd to fire a scientist for expressing his concerns?
Incomprehensible? Bizarre? There's more.

The same Canadian proponents who just two years ago loudly affirmed
Pusztai's firing because he had not published his work in a refereed
journal are now loudly proclaiming the legitimacy of unpublished internal
documents promoting GM safety. You can't have it both ways. Either research
must be published in refereed journals to have scientific credibility, as
was Pusztai's eventually, or not.

And if not Ñ if unpublished internal reports are to be accepted as credible
and authoritative scientific information Ñ one must conclude that the
shameless destruction of Pusztai's career and the termination of his entire
research program had little to do with refereed journal publishing, and
everything to do with what he found.

Ann Clark is an associate professor of plant agriculture at the University
of Guelph.

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