Monsanto's Mexican Maize Mischief, by sourcewatch.org

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Re: Monsanto's Mexican Maize Mischief, by sourcewatch.org

Postby admin » Mon Jan 25, 2016 7:04 am

SCIENTIST TELLS NEWSNIGHT HE WAS THREATENED: ROW OVER GM CROPS - MEXICAN SCIENTIST TELLS NEWSNIGHT HE WAS THREATENED BECAUSE HE WANTED TO TELL THE TRUTH
by BBC Newsnight
7 June 2002

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As Britain sits down to watch the Fields of Gold TV drama about a GM conspiracy, Newsnight's Science Editor Susan Watts reveals a true story of conspiracy and concealment. Last year a Mexican scientist revealed that genetically modified material had got into native species of maize plants grown in Mexico. Nature first published his paper which made worldwide news then retracted amid allegations that they had given into pressure from scientists backed by biotechnology companies.

Newsnight has learnt that Nature ignored the advice of most of its advisers when it decided to retract and that new Mexican Government research will endorse the Mexican scientist's main findings.

The story starts on the frenetic streets of Mexico City after Dr Ignacio Chapela of University of California at Berkeley alerted the Mexican Government to a discovery he'd made of national importance... He found himself unceremoniously deposited into one of the City's familiar green and white beetle taxis ... and escorted on an unfamiliar journey up a long road out of the city...

Dr Ignacio Chapela told Newsnight: "Here I am being led to a very important Mexican government official and under very strange circumstances we were driving into this very seedy part of town ...where people often go and hide from the police or dump people who have disappeared ...I really didn't know what was going to happen but there was this sense of intimidation going on and of course that was confirmed as soon as we got to the office...When he proceeded to tell me how terrible it was that I was doing the research and how dangerous it would be for me to publish."

I had been talking to government officials, because I thought it was the responsible thing to do, even though it was preliminary research', recalls Dr Chapela. [10] At one meeting the aide to the Biosafety Commissioner, Fernando Ortiz Monasterio, told Chapela that his boss wanted to see him. 'The guy just sat outside the door and when I came out, he almost took me by the hand and put me in a taxi with him to see his boss,' he says. A Hollywood script-writer could have conceived what happened next. Chapela was hauled up to Monasterio's 'office' on the 12th floor of an empty building. 'The office space was absolutely empty', recalls Chapela. 'There were no computers, no phones, the door was off its hinges, there were cardboard boxes as a table. The official is there with his cell-phone beside him. We are alone in the building. His aide was sitting next to me, blocking the door.' With obvious emotion, Dr Chapela recalls what happened next. 'He spent an hour railing against me and saying that I was creating a really serious problem, that I was going to pay for. The development of transgenic crops was something that was going to happen in Mexico and elsewhere. He said something like I'm very happy it's going to happen, and there is only one hurdle and that hurdle is you.' Sitting stunned, Chapela replied: 'So you are going to take a revolver out now and kill me or something, what is going on?' Then Monasterio offered Chapela a deal: 'After he told me how I had created the problem, he said I could be part of the solution, just like in a typical gangster movie. He proceeded to invite me to be part of a secret scientific team that was going to show the world what the reality of GM was all about. He said it was going to be made up of the best scientists in the world and you are going to be one of them, and we are going to meet in a secret place in Baja, California. And I said, "who are the other scientists"', and he said "Oh I have them already lined up, there are two from Monsanto and two from DuPont". And I kept saying "Well that is not the way I work, and I wasn't the problem, and the problem is out there".' Then events took a very sinister turn. 'He brings up my family', recalls Chapela. 'He makes reference to him knowing my family and ways in which he can access my family. It was very cheap. I was scared. I felt intimidated and I felt threatened for sure. Whether he meant it I don't know, but it was very nasty to the point that I felt "why should I be here, listening to all this and I should leave".'"

-- Monsanto's Mexican Maize Mischief, by sourcewatch.org


So just what WAS Ignacio Chapela's research? And why was he given the impression it would be better not to make it public... It's illegal to grow GM maize in Mexico. But when Dr Chapela tested crops in the field he found GM maize - a huge embarrassment to officials.

GM maize CAN be imported for food. Dr Chapela believes peasant farmers grew the modified seed and that pollen blown in the wind carried the added genes into native varieties. He was shocked enough to warn the government. He says officials were split, with Environment concerned... and Agriculture keen that his finding didn't get out.

When he refused to keep quiet about what he'd found in the maize, he says the Agriculture official made an extraordinary suggestion... that he join a research project DESIGNED to show that what he'd picked up was just the NATURAL presence of the same infectious agents used by the GM companies...

"We were supposed to find this in an elite scientific research team of which I was being invited to be part of and the other people were two people from Monsanto and two people from Dupont supposedly so at that point I said I don't need that ...," Dr Chapela said. Newsnight asked both Monsanto and Dupont if they were involved in any such project. Monsanto said no and Dupont has yet to respond. The dispute about the Mexican maize centres on whether Dr Chapela is a poor scientist or the victim of vested interests....

Chapela's research made two points -- first that genetically modified material had found its way into maize growing in Mexican fields and second that these genes had become so embedded into the plants' genome they might be passed on from generation to generation. This second finding is disputed -- which allowed the critics to attack the whole research project.

Chapela's paper appeared in the world-renowned Nature science journal. Editor Dr Philip Campbell told Newsnight, in his first full interview on the subject "I published because I thought it interesting scientifically and for policy..."

But when the letters from critics came in Dr Campbell did something which had never happened in the journal's 133-year history. He retracted the whole paper, although the main conclusion, which Nature itself press released as "scientists have detected transgenic DNA in wild maize," was unchallenged. He said: "In terms of what we published as far as I'm aware the first part of the paper hasn't been disputed..." Asked why he had retracted, he said "the paper as a whole shouldn't have been published..."

Chapela's supporters thought Campbell was responding to pressure from industry-funded scientists, but he denies this. He sent the paper to three referees before deciding whether to retract. Newsnight has obtained their confidential comments. Only ONE thought the paper should be retracted -- though all said there were flaws in its second part.

New genetics & hazards of genetic modification

The rationale and impetus for genetic engineering and genetic modification was the "central dogma" of molecular biology that assumed DNA carries all the instructions for making an organism. This is contrary to the reality of the fluid and responsive genome that already has come to light since the early 1980s. Instead of linear causal chains leading from DNA to RNA to protein and downstream biological functions, complex feed-forward and feed-back cycles interconnect organism and environment at all levels, marking and changing RNA and DNA down the generations. In order to survive, the organism needs to engage in natural genetic modification in real time, an exquisitely precise molecular dance of life with RNA and DNA responding to and participating fully in "downstream" biological functions. That is why organisms and ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to the crude, artificial genetically modified RNA and DNA created by human genetic engineers. It is also why genetic modification can probably never be safe.

1. Genetic modification done by human genetic engineers is anything but precise; it is uncontrollable and unpredictable, introducing many collateral damage to the host genome as well as new transcripts, proteins and metabolites that could be harmful.

2. GM feed with very different transgenes have been shown to be harmful to a wide range of species, by farmers in the field and independent scientists working in the lab, indicating that genetic modification itself is unsafe.

3. Genetic modification done by human genetic engineers is different from natural genetic modification done by organisms themselves for the following reasons: it relies on making unnatural GM constructs designed to cross species barriers and jump into genomes; it combines and transfers genes between species that would never have exchanged genes in nature; GM constructs tend to be unstable and hence more prone to further horizontal gene transfer after it has integrated into the genome.

4. Horizontal gene transfer and recombination is a major route for creating new viruses and bacteria that cause diseases and spreading drug and antibiotic resistance. Transgenic DNA is especially dangerous because the GM constructs are already combinations of sequences from diverse bacteria and viruses that cause diseases, and contain antibiotic resistance marker genes.

5. There is experimental evidence that transgenes are much more likely to spread and to transfer horizontally.

6. The instability of the GM construct is reflected in the instability of transgenic varieties due to both transgene silencing and the loss of transgenes, for which abundant evidence exists. Transgenic instability makes a mockery of "event-specific" characterization and risk assessment, because any change in transgene expression, or worse, rearrangement or movement of the transgenic DNA insert(s) would create another transgenic plant different from the one that was characterized and risk assessed. And it matters little how thoroughly the original characterization and risk assessment may have been done. Unstable transgenic lines are illegal, they should not be growing commercially, and they are not eligible for patent protection.

7. There is abundant evidence for horizontal transfer of transgenic DNA from plant to bacteria in the lab and it is well known that transgenic DNA can persist in debris and residue in the soil long after the crops have been cultivated. At least 87 species (2 % of all known species) of bacteria can take up foreign DNA and integrate it into their genome; the frequency of that happening being greatly increased when a short homologous anchor sequence is present.

8. The frequency at which transgenic DNA transfers horizontal has been routinely underestimated because the overwhelming majority of natural bacteria cannot be cultured. Using direct detection methods without the need to culture, substantial gene transfers were observed on the surface of intact leaves as well as on rotting damaged leaves.

9. In the only monitoring experiment carried out with appropriate molecular probes so far, China has detected the spread of a GM antibiotic resistance gene to bacteria in all of its major rivers; suggesting that horizontal gene transfer has contributed to the recent rise in antibiotic resistance in animals and humans in the country.

10. GM DNA has been found to survive digestion in the gut of mice, the rumen of sheep and duodenum of cattle and to enter the blood stream.

11. In the only feeding trial carried out on humans, the complete 2,266 bp of the epsps transgene in Roundup Ready soybean flour was recovered from the colostomy bag in 6 out of 7 ileostomy subjects. In 3 out of 7 subjects, bacteria cultured from the contents of the colostomy bag were positive for the GM soya transgene, showing that horizontal transfer of the transgene had occurred; but no bacteria were positive for any natural soybean genes.

12. The gastrointestinal tract of mammals is a hotspot for horizontal gene transfer between bacteria, transfer beginning in the mouth.

13. Evidence is emerging that genomes of higher plants and animals may be even softer targets for horizontal gene transfer than genomes of bacteria.

14. The CaMV 35S promoter, most widely used in commercial GM crops, is known to have a fragmentation hotspot, which makes it prone to horizontal gene transfer; in addition. it is promiscuously active in bacteria, fungi, as well as human cells. Recent evidence also suggests that the promoter may enhance multiplication of disease-associated viruses including HIV and cytomegalovirus through the induction of proteins required for transcription of the viruses. It also overlaps with a viral gene that interferes with gene silencing, an essential function in plants and animals that protects them against viruses.

15. The Agrobacterium vector, most widely used for creating GM plants is now known to transfer genes also to fungi and human cells, and to share genetic signals for gene transfer with common bacteria in the environment. In addition, the Agrobacterium bacteria as well as its gene transfer vector tend to remain in the GM crops created, thereby constituting a ready route for horizontal gene transfer to all organisms interacting with the GM crops, or come into contact with the soil on which GM crops are growing or have been grown.

16. In 2008, Agrobacterium was linked to the outbreak of Morgellons disease. The Centers for Disease Control in the US launched an investigation, which concluded in 2012, with the finding: "no common underlying medical condition or infection source was identified". But they had failed to investigate the involvement of Agrobacterium.

17. New GM crops that produce double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) for specific gene-silencing are hazardous because many off-target effects in the RNA interference process are now known, and cannot be controlled. Furthermore, small dsRNA in food plants were found to survive digestion in the human gut and to enter the bloodstream where they are transported to different tissues and cells to silence genes.

18. Evidence accumulated over the past 50 years have revealed nucleic acids (both DNA and RNA) circulating in the bloodstream of humans and other animals that are actively secreted by cells for intercommunication. The nucleic acids are taken up by target cells to silence genes in the case of double-stranded microRNA (miRNA), and may be integrated into the cells' genome, in the case of DNA. The profile of the circulating nucleic acids change according to states of health and disease. Cancer cells use the system to spread cancer around the body. This nucleic acid intercom leaves the body very vulnerable to genetically modified nucleic acids that can take over the system to do considerable harm.

-- Ban GMOs Now: Especially in the Light of the New Genetics, By Dr Mae-Wan Ho and Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji


The second referee said "none of the critics seriously dispute the main conclusion" and the third said,"none of the comments has successfully disproven their main result that transgenic corn is growing in Mexico and crossing with local varieties". Yet Dr Campbell published the retraction - citing only the FIRST referee.

Asked why he hadn't made the referees views clear Dr Campbell said "What we were doing was giving our judgement based on a variety of pieces of advice we'd received - our standard procedure is to make our own judgements and we wanted to make clear that there were problems with the evidence based on our judgement based on the advice of independent referees."


Newsnight also learned more about the alleged internet dirty tricks campaign. As soon as Chapela's paper was published, attacks on him started to appear on the Internet. His supporters suspected a PR company called the Bivings group - which helps Monsanto with its Internet work -- was using a new technique called viral marketing. On its website, Bivings advised: "there are some campaigns where it would be undesirable or even disastrous to let the audience know that your organisation is directly involved".

Chapela's supporters claim to have tracked down several examples of messages that purport to have come from concerned individuals but appear to originate from Bivings computers. Bivings told us one email did come from someone "working for Bivings" or "clients using our services", but they deny running a secret campaign.

Now the Mexican government's biologists have carried out their own battery of genetic tests on cobs of native maize to find out if GM genes are really finding their way into Mexico's traditional varieties. They've used two independent labs to avoid the criticisms surrounding Chapela's work and Newsnight has learned that they've found the smoking gun - the new results strongly support Chapela's original claim - finding telltale signs of DNA from genetically modified maize throughout Mexico's remote regional farmland...

***

Transcript of Newsnight feature
7th June 2002


(Mexico City) The story starts on the frenetic streets of Mexico City after a scientist alerted his government to a discovery he'd made of national importance...

He soon found himself unceremoniously deposited into one of the City's familiar green and white beetle taxis ... and escorted on an unfamiliar journey up a long road out of the city...

(Chapela driving)

Here I am being led to a very important Mexican government official and under very strange conditions... we were driving into this very seedy part of town ...where people often go and hide from the police or dump people who have disappeared ...I really didn't know what was going to happen but there was this sense of intimidation going on and of course that was confirmed when ...he proceeded to tell me how terrible it was that I was doing the research and how dangerous it would be for me to publish.

So just what WAS Ignacio Chapela's research? And why was he given the impression it would be better not to make it public...

It all comes down to the humble tortilla...it's made from maize, and Mexicans are proud that this is the birthplace of this staple food. It's a cultural icon and it's illegal to grow GM maize here. But when Dr Chapela tested crops in the field he found GM maize -- a huge embarrassment to officials.

GM maize CAN be imported for food. Dr Chapela believes peasant farmers grew the modified seed and that pollen blown in the wind carried the added genes into native varieties. He was shocked enough to warn the government. He says officials were split, with Environment concerned... and Agriculture keen that his finding didn't get out.

When he refused to keep quiet about what he'd found in the maize, he says the Agriculture official made an extraordinary suggestion... that he join a research project DESIGNED to show that what he'd picked up was just the NATURAL presence of the same infectious agents used by the GM companies...

(Chapela) "We were supposed to find this in an elite scientific research team of which I was being invited to be part of and the other people were two people from Monsanto and two people from Dupont supposedly so at that point I said I don't need that ...."

(Newsnight) Both Monsanto and Dupont deny involvement in ANY SUCH project.

He went ahead and published his original research in Nature magazine. Almost immediately a wave of condemnation rolled in... This time from scientists in San Francisco... The criticism stung because Berkeley is where Dr Chapela has his OWN labs...

But Berkeley is also home to a giant programme of research backed by the GM industry - the university signed a $25 m deal to work with one of the world's most powerful biotechnology companies.

There are in effect two camps at Berkeley. Dr Chapela's supporters suspect a conspiracy when they see scientists using funds from the GM industry come out against his work... the critics dismiss this...

(FREELING) no...I can speak for myself ...I guess I'd be the head of the conspiracy - there was no such

(Newsnight) Michael Freeling is DELETING INDIVIDUAL genes from maize plants - one by one - ...this row shows the dramatic effect of deleting just one gene. ..

Dr Freeling uses money from the university's tie-up with the Syngenta company which develops GM seeds ...He also wrote a critical letter to Nature about Dr Chapela's work - but says the two are not linked...

(Freeling) Bad science is bad science -- anyone can see it...

(Newsnight) So the dispute about the Mexican maize centres on whether Dr Chapela is a poor scientist or the victim of vested interests....

Chapela's research made two points - first that genetically modified material had found its way into maize growing in Mexican fields, and second that these genes had become so embedded into the plants' genome they might be passed on from generation to generation. This second finding is disputed -- which allowed the critics to attack the whole research project.

Nick Kaplinsky is Dr Chapela's toughest critic... and another Berkeley scientist. But even he accepts that GM genes are probably out there.

(Kaplinsky) Their paper had two claims: the first one was that there's transgenic corn in Mexico, which is kind of a no-brainer. The second part of their paper claimed that the transgenes were jumping around or behaving like infectious agents, and that would've been a huge finding if it had been true, but their science was completely incorrect there.

(Newsnight) There now seems to be widespread agreement that this part of the paper was flawed...Kaplinsky calls it a "beginners' mistake" and says it doesn't matter if he IS partisan...

(Kaplinsky) Since our scientific critique is right -- and the independent referees agreed with that -- does it matter if we're biased -- you know I mean if you're right, you're right I guess.

(Newsnight) As soon as Chapela's paper was published, attacks on him started to appear on the Internet. His supporters suspected a PR company called the Bivings group -- which helps Monsanto with its Internet work -- was using a new technique called viral marketing. On its website, Bivings advised: "there are some campaigns where it would be undesirable or even disastrous to let the audience know that your organisation is directly involved". Chapela's supporters claim to have tracked down examples of messages that purport to have come from concerned individuals but appear to originate from Bivings computers. Bivings told us one email did come from someone "working for Bivings" or "clients using our services", but they deny running a secret campaign.

The pressure now switched to London and the world-renowned Nature science journal in which Chapela's paper appeared. Since Charles Darwin's time it has published key discoveries, like the make-up of the atom, the Watson and Crick paper on the structure of DNA, and the decoding of the human genome ...then last November the paper on Mexican maize.

(Campbell: editor of Nature) I published because I thought it interesting scientifically and for policy...

(Newsnight) But when the letters from the critics came in, Campbell did something which had never happened the journal's 133-year history. He retracted the whole paper, although the main conclusion, which Nature itself press released as "scientists have detected transgenic DNA in wild maize," was unchallenged.

(Campbell) in terms of what we published, as far as I'm aware the first part of the paper hasn't been disputed...

(Newsnight) But you still felt it necessary to retract?

(Campbell) Uh hum yes...

(Newsnight) can you tell me why exactly....

(Campbell) yes, because as I said, the paper as a whole shouldn't have been published.

(Newsnight) Chapela's supporters thought Campbell was responding to pressure from industry-funded scientists, but he denies this. He sent the paper to three referees before deciding whether to retract. Newsnight has obtained their confidential comments. Only ONE thought the paper should be retracted - though all said there were flaws in its second part.

The second referee said "none of the critics seriously dispute the main conclusion" and the third said "none of the comments has successfully disproven their main result that transgenic corn is growing in Mexico and crossing with local varieties". Yet Campbell published the retraction -- citing only the FIRST referee.

(Newsnight) if it's your own judgement, why refer only to the one who disagreed, not the two who supported?

(Campbell) what we were doing was giving our judgement based on a variety of pieces of advice we'd received -- our standard procedure is to make our own judgements, and we wanted to make clear that there were problems with the evidence based on our judgement, based on the advice of independent referees.

(Newsnight) Just outside Mexico City, scientists funded largely by the World Bank, are working on modified maize for Africa that can resist four different insect pests at once...they see engineered crops as a solution to world hunger...their maize gene bank is a key element in global food security.

Inside this earthquake-proof vault is the world's largest collection of tropical maize -- there are 25,000 varieties stored in this cold room...when Chapela's paper came out, scientists here ran an urgent check to make sure GM genes have not found their way into this vital reference stock by accident...

So far they've found no foreign genes. Now the scientific discussion is over whether escaped genes will have any long lasting effect anyway.

First the Mexican government wants the extent of the problem settled once and for all. Its biologists have carried out their own battery of genetic tests on cobs of native maize. They've used two independent labs to avoid the criticisms surrounding Chapela's work. According to the experts in molecular biology, detecting positives in those additional 3 tests would be the smoking gun, and that smoking gun has now be found. These bio-containment greenhouses are one of the few places in Mexico where it's still legal to grow GM maize... But it's too late to worry about keeping modified crops apart. Newsnight has learned that the results strongly SUPPORT Chapela's original claim - finding telltale signs of DNA from genetically modified maize throughout Mexico's remote regional farmland...

(ends)
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Re: Monsanto's Mexican Maize Mischief, by sourcewatch.org

Postby admin » Mon Jan 25, 2016 7:52 am

The Great Mexican Maize Scandal
By Fred Pearce
New Scientist (UK)
Published June 17, 2002

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


For environmentalists, the work was proof of the dangers of genetic modification. Transgenes had spread to traditional maize varieties grown in Mexico. Then the journal Nature disowned the research paper, prompting claims that it had given in to a campaign orchestrated by the biotech industry. But why were the authors' strongest critics their own colleagues? Here, we reveal the extraordinary goings-on behind the headlines.

The saga began in September 2001. The Mexican environment ministry announced that DNA from genetically modified maize had been found in native varieties grown on small farms.

The results were, not surprisingly seized upon by campaigners opposed to GM crops. And in November, they were given more ammunition when the findings were published in the prestigious journal Nature. Then, this April, things took a confusing turn. In an unprecedented move, Nature declared that it regretted publishing the paper, and ran two letters that claimed the research was fatally flawed.

The turnaround has generated even more coverage than the original finding. It is the first time Nature has ever disowned a paper in defiance of its authors and referees. Some suspect foul play, claiming that representatives of the biotechnology industry orchestrated a campaign of letters and petitions criticising the original paper. But the paper's critics at the University of California, Berkeley where the key protagonists in this saga have all worked, may not have needed any outside encouragement.

The paper's authors -- graduate student David Quist, an environmental scientist, and his professor, Mexican plant biologist Ignacio Chapela, were already hate figures on the Berkeley campus. In 1998, they had campaigned unsuccessfully to prevent the university striking an extraordinary alliance with the Swiss biotech company Novartis. The deal, signed amid student protests and piethrowing, gave Novartis the rights to cherrypick the best plant research for development in exchange for up to $50 million. But while the protesters see it as compromising academic freedom, many in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology owe their jobs to the deal with what's now called Syngenta.

Two years later, on the night of 11 October 2000, environmental activists destroyed GM maize being grown at Berkeley by students of Mike Freeling, who is a member of the department. The group told a local paper that they had tested the maize to make sure it was genetically modified.

The angry researchers feared an inside job, and initially pointed the finger at Quist. "Just prior to the vandalism, Quist had requested primers from some of the corn geneticists in my department that might be used to identify transgenics in the field," Steven Lindow, a senior professor in the department, told New Scientist. His colleagues "became concerned, and became even more suspicious after the vandalism", he says.

A fortnight after the crops were destroyed, Lindow spoke to Quist's professor, Chapela, about the allegations. Today Lindow says he quickly accepted that Quist was innocent. But Quist says that the allegation festers on, and "has led to irrevocable damage to my academic credibility".


At the time of the field trashing, Quist was in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, collecting samples of maize from farmers' gelds. When the research based on these samples hit the headlines a year later, it was potentially far more damaging to the careers of biotechnologists at Berkeley than heavy boots in a field at midnight.

Quist and Chapela first used PCR, the standard DNA amplification technique, to detect the DNA sequences engineered into Bt maize grown in the US. "This is a standard method of detection used by regulatory agencies in Europe and elsewhere," says Quist. It can generate false positives, he agrees. But the pair say that results from their controls show "beyond reasonable doubt" that the sequences are present in a few samples of the native strains from remote regions in Mexico.

The pair then used a related technique called inverse PCR to discover the precise position of the transgenic sequences. This seemed to show that the added DNA had fragmented and scattered throughout the maize genome -- the finding that triggered an outcry among scientists.

The authors are still fuelling the dispute. "It suggests that transgenic DNA can move around the genome with a range of unpredictable effects, from disruption of normal functions to modification of expressed products that become toxic agents to the generation of new strains of bacteria and viruses," Quist told New Scientist this month.


The two critical letters published by Nature in April attacked this second finding. And Quist and Chapela conceded that there were flaws, when, in a letter that Nature published at the same time, they said: "We acknowledge that our critics' assertion of the misidentifying of sequences . . . is valid."

New genetics & hazards of genetic modification

The rationale and impetus for genetic engineering and genetic modification was the "central dogma" of molecular biology that assumed DNA carries all the instructions for making an organism. This is contrary to the reality of the fluid and responsive genome that already has come to light since the early 1980s. Instead of linear causal chains leading from DNA to RNA to protein and downstream biological functions, complex feed-forward and feed-back cycles interconnect organism and environment at all levels, marking and changing RNA and DNA down the generations. In order to survive, the organism needs to engage in natural genetic modification in real time, an exquisitely precise molecular dance of life with RNA and DNA responding to and participating fully in "downstream" biological functions. That is why organisms and ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to the crude, artificial genetically modified RNA and DNA created by human genetic engineers. It is also why genetic modification can probably never be safe.

1. Genetic modification done by human genetic engineers is anything but precise; it is uncontrollable and unpredictable, introducing many collateral damage to the host genome as well as new transcripts, proteins and metabolites that could be harmful.

2. GM feed with very different transgenes have been shown to be harmful to a wide range of species, by farmers in the field and independent scientists working in the lab, indicating that genetic modification itself is unsafe.

3. Genetic modification done by human genetic engineers is different from natural genetic modification done by organisms themselves for the following reasons: it relies on making unnatural GM constructs designed to cross species barriers and jump into genomes; it combines and transfers genes between species that would never have exchanged genes in nature; GM constructs tend to be unstable and hence more prone to further horizontal gene transfer after it has integrated into the genome.

4. Horizontal gene transfer and recombination is a major route for creating new viruses and bacteria that cause diseases and spreading drug and antibiotic resistance. Transgenic DNA is especially dangerous because the GM constructs are already combinations of sequences from diverse bacteria and viruses that cause diseases, and contain antibiotic resistance marker genes.

5. There is experimental evidence that transgenes are much more likely to spread and to transfer horizontally.

6. The instability of the GM construct is reflected in the instability of transgenic varieties due to both transgene silencing and the loss of transgenes, for which abundant evidence exists. Transgenic instability makes a mockery of "event-specific" characterization and risk assessment, because any change in transgene expression, or worse, rearrangement or movement of the transgenic DNA insert(s) would create another transgenic plant different from the one that was characterized and risk assessed. And it matters little how thoroughly the original characterization and risk assessment may have been done. Unstable transgenic lines are illegal, they should not be growing commercially, and they are not eligible for patent protection.

7. There is abundant evidence for horizontal transfer of transgenic DNA from plant to bacteria in the lab and it is well known that transgenic DNA can persist in debris and residue in the soil long after the crops have been cultivated. At least 87 species (2 % of all known species) of bacteria can take up foreign DNA and integrate it into their genome; the frequency of that happening being greatly increased when a short homologous anchor sequence is present.

8. The frequency at which transgenic DNA transfers horizontal has been routinely underestimated because the overwhelming majority of natural bacteria cannot be cultured. Using direct detection methods without the need to culture, substantial gene transfers were observed on the surface of intact leaves as well as on rotting damaged leaves.

9. In the only monitoring experiment carried out with appropriate molecular probes so far, China has detected the spread of a GM antibiotic resistance gene to bacteria in all of its major rivers; suggesting that horizontal gene transfer has contributed to the recent rise in antibiotic resistance in animals and humans in the country.

10. GM DNA has been found to survive digestion in the gut of mice, the rumen of sheep and duodenum of cattle and to enter the blood stream.

11. In the only feeding trial carried out on humans, the complete 2,266 bp of the epsps transgene in Roundup Ready soybean flour was recovered from the colostomy bag in 6 out of 7 ileostomy subjects. In 3 out of 7 subjects, bacteria cultured from the contents of the colostomy bag were positive for the GM soya transgene, showing that horizontal transfer of the transgene had occurred; but no bacteria were positive for any natural soybean genes.

12. The gastrointestinal tract of mammals is a hotspot for horizontal gene transfer between bacteria, transfer beginning in the mouth.

13. Evidence is emerging that genomes of higher plants and animals may be even softer targets for horizontal gene transfer than genomes of bacteria.

14. The CaMV 35S promoter, most widely used in commercial GM crops, is known to have a fragmentation hotspot, which makes it prone to horizontal gene transfer; in addition. it is promiscuously active in bacteria, fungi, as well as human cells. Recent evidence also suggests that the promoter may enhance multiplication of disease-associated viruses including HIV and cytomegalovirus through the induction of proteins required for transcription of the viruses. It also overlaps with a viral gene that interferes with gene silencing, an essential function in plants and animals that protects them against viruses.

15. The Agrobacterium vector, most widely used for creating GM plants is now known to transfer genes also to fungi and human cells, and to share genetic signals for gene transfer with common bacteria in the environment. In addition, the Agrobacterium bacteria as well as its gene transfer vector tend to remain in the GM crops created, thereby constituting a ready route for horizontal gene transfer to all organisms interacting with the GM crops, or come into contact with the soil on which GM crops are growing or have been grown.

16. In 2008, Agrobacterium was linked to the outbreak of Morgellons disease. The Centers for Disease Control in the US launched an investigation, which concluded in 2012, with the finding: "no common underlying medical condition or infection source was identified". But they had failed to investigate the involvement of Agrobacterium.

17. New GM crops that produce double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) for specific gene-silencing are hazardous because many off-target effects in the RNA interference process are now known, and cannot be controlled. Furthermore, small dsRNA in food plants were found to survive digestion in the human gut and to enter the bloodstream where they are transported to different tissues and cells to silence genes.

18. Evidence accumulated over the past 50 years have revealed nucleic acids (both DNA and RNA) circulating in the bloodstream of humans and other animals that are actively secreted by cells for intercommunication. The nucleic acids are taken up by target cells to silence genes in the case of double-stranded microRNA (miRNA), and may be integrated into the cells' genome, in the case of DNA. The profile of the circulating nucleic acids change according to states of health and disease. Cancer cells use the system to spread cancer around the body. This nucleic acid intercom leaves the body very vulnerable to genetically modified nucleic acids that can take over the system to do considerable harm.

-- Ban GMOs Now: Especially in the Light of the New Genetics, by Dr Mae-Wan Ho and Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji


In less fraught circumstances, a partial retraction of the original paper might have been enough to satisfy both sides. But Nature demanded the authors retract the whole paper, and they refused. So the journal ran its own unprecedented disavowal, in the same issue as the critical letters. This asserted that "in the light of diverse advice received . . . the evidence available is not sufficient to justify the publication of the original paper".

Quist and Chapela point out that, whatever technical failings might have emerged after publication, their paper had been approved by three anonymous referees. It must have had some merit. And when it and the letters of complaint were submitted to three more referees, two of them specifically noted that none of the comments disproved the conclusion that transgenic corn is growing in Mexico.

"The main finding is not controversial or really being challenged, " says Quist. "Neither of the two letters published in Nature, purportedly showing fatal flaws in our paper, ever questioned our main discovery." Nature has not responded directly to New Scientist's questions about why it would not accept the authors' partial retraction. "Nature has never said that the paper's conclusions are wrong," is all editor Philip Campbell will say. "We have said that they are not convincing on the basis of the evidence that we have published." He denies that a campaign against Quist and Chapela influenced his decision to demand a retraction of their paper -- and to disown it when they refused.

But a campaign there certainly was. Demands that the paper be retracted appeared on Internet biotech forums the day it was published, and continued with mounting vehemence. Yet two of the first, most persistent and apparently scientifically qualified complainants on the Net, "Mary Murphy" and "Andura Smetacek", appear not to be real people. A British anti-GM campaigner, Jonathan Matthews of the Norfolk Genetic Information Network, claims to have tracked their electronic personas to the offices and computer equipment of the Bivings Group in Washington DC, a PR company that has Monsanto as one of its clients. Bivings initially denied everything but has since admitted that one of the emails came from a Bivings' employee or client.

But what has raised most eyebrows is the identity of the scientists whose two letters attacking the paper appeared in Nature. "The antagonists signing the letters are all connected directly with [Berkeley's] local political scandal," says Chapela.

One was co-written by Freeling and Nick Kaplinsky who is also a senior figure at the same department at Berkeley. The other was by Matthew Metz, a former Berkeley microbiologist who was a vocal supporter of the Novartis alliance, and Johannes Futterer, a young Swiss researcher whose boss, Wilhelm Gruissem, was at Berkeley four years ago and was widely regarded as "the man who brought Novartis to Berkeley".

Quist and Chapela believe the animosities created by the furore over the deal, and inflamed by the crop trashing, must be an element in the row over their paper. Kaplinsky denies this. "This issue is strictly about science. Quist and Chapela published bad science and should have done the honourable thing -- retract their paper and apologise."

June 22, 2012

What I did not do was what some experts advise when hit with a DIRA, which is to issue apologies on Twitter. Marc Randazza suggested this, but I just blew it off. Seriously, why would I apologize for doing things I do all the time, and will very likely keep doing for the rest of my employed life? Basically my entire employment is threatening companies and people, except when I’m protecting them from threats, which, however, I do by means of counterthreats. So if Inman gets a pass because he’s an asshole, I’m fucked. In response to my perseverance in inflicting legal punishment upon those who have besmirched the memory of my mother, Tech Crunch and Popehat are posting that “Carreon is still digging,” and really clever jokes about China begin to pop up. Displays of true wit in this crowd are extremely rare. The business of rapeutationing is serious. After all, we’re trying to destroy somebody here. So clichés are more appropriate to this type of work, true humor has no place here, and all these posters have, in my view, declared that they do not hold their mothers, or anyone’s mother, in special regard. They are, to quote The Three Amigos, the “sons of a motherless goat.” Hehe.

Why not go out and address the mob? The opportunity to comment and reply in online forums is entirely illusory once you have been tagged as a douchebag, and thousands of trolls are roaming around online, just aching with a desire to declare that they went mano-a-mano with Charles Carreon and handed him his ass. These trolls are networked, and will collect like cops around a crime-in-progress with endless amounts of verbal ammo to dispatch. I watched a good friend of mine who tried to say good things about me on his own blog eight months after the initial rapeutation kickoff in June 2012. These networked trolls obviously have Google alerts on “Charles Carreon,” so they can immediately attack or add fuel to any fire where the fires of the neverending DIRA are still burning. They discovered that my friend was engaging in douchebaggery by trying to help me out with a little good press, truthfully posting that I had been helping him a lot with his business, and that I was the kind of lawyer who was helpful when times are tough. Like Scientologists descending upon a suppressive who’s been newly-marked as “fair game,” the Charles Carreon rapeutationists simply added my friend to their list of people to fuck and set his reputation on fire at a thread in Tech Crunch. Some of his competitors showed up to declare him a disgrace to his profession for even working with Charles Carreon. When my friend started posting at Tech Crunch to answer the abuse, his bold sallies were quickly repulsed with loads of invective that would have sunk a garbage ferry. He quickly retreated, punched silly by a gang of rapeutationists who had finally got a chance to release that blast of hateful steam I’d been avoiding for the better part of the prior year. I’d sooner try and wrestle a zombie for a fresh brain than engage those TechCrunchers on their terrain. You don’t have to read Sun Tzu to know that.

-- The Real Diary of Charles Carreon, by Charles Carreon


But Kaplinsky doesn't stop there. "Since they seem incapable of admitting their mistakes, they are raising non-scientific issues like the Novartis agreement with our department, vendettas, global conspiracies. Anything so they can avoid talking about the fact that they published artefactual data and then misinterpreted it."

Campbell says he wasn't aware of the allegations surrounding the crop trashing incident when he accepted the letters. But he says it would not have influenced his decision to publish. Neither Nature nor Campbell are poodles of the biotech industry. Campbell himself wrote a hostile editorial about the Berkeley-Novartis deal. But Quist still insists that it was political pressure that brought about the journal's actions. Whoever is right, the row reveals an alarming breakdown in scientific discourse. In the aftermath of the affair, Campbell wrote that it must have been Murphy's law that ensured the journal's embarrassing climb-down "was in relation to one of the most hotly debated technologies of our time". Others see it as more than an accident. They fear that the affair has put the system of peer review to the test, and found it wanting.

The spectre of unseen actors manipulating events is particularly worrying. In its disavowal, Nature asked its readers to make up their own minds about the science behind the row. But it failed to alert them to the private rows behind the public letters. Nor did it reveal the identities and affiliations of the five referees who broadly supported the original paper, or the sixth who appears to have persuaded Nature to make a retraction.

Also out of sight are the individuals behind "Mary Murphy" and "Andura Smetacek", not to mention the people who trashed Freeling's field two years ago. Strange what dark shadows are thrown up by the harsh glare of publicity.

While I was writing the last piece, Bivings sent me an email fiercely denying that it had anything to do with the fake correspondents "Mary Murphy" and "Andura Smetacek", who started the smear campaign against the Nature paper. Last week I checked the email's technical properties. They contained the identity tag "bw6.bivwood.com". The message came from the same computer terminal that "Mary Murphy" has used. New research coordinated by the campaigner Jonathan Matthews appears to have unmasked the fake persuaders: "Mary Murphy" is being posted by a Bivings web designer, writing from both the office and his home computer in Hyattsville, Maryland; while "Andura Smetacek" appears to be the company's chief internet marketer.

-- Corporate phantoms: The web of deceit over GM food has now drawn in the PM's speechwriters, by George Monbiot
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Re: Monsanto's Mexican Maize Mischief, by sourcewatch.org

Postby admin » Mon Jan 25, 2016 8:22 am

SCIENTISTS IN A SPIN...
by Zac Goldsmith
Editor, The Ecologist
The Guardian, Letters
May 16, 2002

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George Monbiot's allegations about Monsanto and its incognito spinmeisters (The fake persuaders, May 14) tell only part of this tale of manipulation of science and scientists. At the Ecologist we have seen at first hand just how easily even eminent scientists can become caught up in PR operations. After reporting that the Herald newspaper had had to pay out damages for publishing libellous allegations in an anti-Greenpeace letter, we were contacted by Prof Anthony Trewavas who had been named in the high court as the letter's author. Not so, said Professor Trewavas. He had merely been circulating material written by Andura Smetacek. Who she? One of the PR operatives Monbiot shows has been involved in smearing GM critics.

While I was writing the last piece, Bivings sent me an email fiercely denying that it had anything to do with the fake correspondents "Mary Murphy" and "Andura Smetacek", who started the smear campaign against the Nature paper. Last week I checked the email's technical properties. They contained the identity tag "bw6.bivwood.com". The message came from the same computer terminal that "Mary Murphy" has used. New research coordinated by the campaigner Jonathan Matthews appears to have unmasked the fake persuaders: "Mary Murphy" is being posted by a Bivings web designer, writing from both the office and his home computer in Hyattsville, Maryland; while "Andura Smetacek" appears to be the company's chief internet marketer.

-- Corporate phantoms: The web of deceit over GM food has now drawn in the PM's speechwriters, by George Monbiot


Zac Goldsmith
Editor, The Ecologist
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Re: Monsanto's Mexican Maize Mischief, by sourcewatch.org

Postby admin » Mon Jan 25, 2016 9:59 am

Amaizing Disgrace - Monsanto Up To Its Old Dirty Tricks Again
The Ecologist Vol 32 No 4, May 2002
4-29-2

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A dirty tricks campaign leads straight to the door of a Monsanto PR company, says Jonathan Matthews in the launch of his new column.

The journal Science reporting recently on how the Mexican "maize scandal" was driving the battle over GM crops "to new heights of acrimony and confusion", noted the part played by, "widely circulating anonymous e-mails" accusing researchers, Ignacio Chapela and David Quist, of "conflicts of interest and other misdeeds".

These accusations surfaced first in late November on the day of Nature's publication of Chapela and Quist's findings of GM contamination of maize varieties in Mexico - the global heartland of maize diversity. Samples of native criollo corn were found to contain a genetic 'switch' commonly used in GM crops and one sample was even found to contain a commonly inserted gene that prompts the plant to produce a poison. The results were particularly surprising as Mexico banned the growing of GM maize in 1998, and the last known GM crops were grown almost 60 miles from where the contaminated maize was found.

For the biotech industry this could not have come at a worse time. Its efforts to lift the European, Brazilian, and Mexican moratoria on GM seeds or foods were all coming to a head.

Chapela and Quist came under immediate attack in a furious volley of e-mails published on the AgBioView listserv. AgBioView correspondents calling themselves 'Mary Murphy' and 'Andura Smetacek' claimed Chapela and Quist's research was a product of a conspiracy with "fear-mongering activists". The conspirators' aim, apparently, was to attack "biotechnology, free-trade, intellectual property rights and other politically motivated agenda items."

These claims prompted a series of further attacks from others. Prof Anthony Trewavas, for example, denounced scientists like Chapela who had "political axes to grind". Trewavas demanded Chapela be fired unless he handed over his maize samples for checking.

This was not Trewavas's first controversial intervention in the GM debate in response to material put into circulation on AgBioView. Last October, for instance, Trewavas was named in the High Court as the source of an anti-Greenpeace letter at the centre of a libel case. Trewavas subsequently claimed that the letter originated on AgBioView.

The last piece in question was posted by one Andura Smetacek, who regularly posts vitriolic attacks on critics of the biotech industry. In Smetacek's early posts, interestingly, repeated reference is made to one particular website, CFFAR.org. Ostensibly, CFFAR - or the Center for Food and Agricultural Research, to give it its full title - is "a public policy and research coalition" concerned with "food and fiber production." But despite links to CFFAR.org from the websites of US public libraries and university departments, there appears to be no evidence this organisation really exists.

To judge by the frequent usage of words like "violence", "terrorism", and "acts of terror", the real purpose of the site is to associate biotech industry opponents with terrorism. This mission is faciliated by fabricated claims. In its "vandalwatch.org" section, for instance, CFFAR.org accuses Greenpeace of engaging in multiple attacks on British farms. Greenpeace is accused of commandeering farmers' tractors and crashing through fences in pursuit of farmers' families.

The domain registration details for CFFAR.org show the registrant to be one 'THEODOROV, MANUEL'. Among early signatories to a pro-agbiotech petition launched by AgBioView list editor, Prof CS Prakash, the following details can be found: NAME: emmanuel theodorou. POSITION: director of associations. ORGANIZATION: bivings woodell, Inc. DEPARTMENT: advocacy and outreach.

What kind of "advocacy and outreach" do Bivings Woodell, Inc., aka the Bivings Group, do? According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, "The Bivings Group has developed 'Internet advocacy' campaigns for corporate America since 1996... Biotechnology giant Monsanto [is] among the Bivings clients who have discovered how to make the Internet work for them."

As part of its brief, Bivings designs and runs Monsanto's websites and Theodorou is believed to have been part of Bivings' Monsanto team. Mary Murphy would also seem to connect to Bivings. Or so it would seem from the evidence of a fake Associated Press article on the bulletin board of the foxbghsuit.com website. It was posted by "Mary Murphy (bw6.bivwood.com)".

Between them Smetacek and Murphy have had 60 or more attacks published, often very prominently, by Prakash on the AgBioWorld listserv. Prakash presents AgBioWorld as a mainstream science group reliant on the support of individuals and philanthropic foundations. However, a website design specialist who took a detailed look at the AgBioWorld site reported that there appeared to be evidence that part of its content was held on a Bivings' server. Furthermore, agbioworld.org, vandalwatch.org and the Bivings'-designed thebivingsreport.com, all seemed to be the work of the same designer.

Perhaps it's time for Prakash to clarify where AgBioWorld finishes and biotech industry PR begins. Come to that, the Royal Society might like to tell us why Trewavas, one of its media advisors, seems so keen to promulgate PR industry smears. And, finally, Monsanto needs to explain how its much vaunted pledge to abide by principles of openness, transparency and respect tallies with a dirty tricks campaign.
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Re: Monsanto's Mexican Maize Mischief, by sourcewatch.org

Postby admin » Mon Jan 25, 2016 10:02 am

Seeds of Dissent: Anti-GM scientists are facing widespread assaults on their credibility
by ANDY ROWELL
The Big Issue n.484,
April 15, 2002

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Andy Rowell is the author of 'Green Backlash: global subversion of the environment movement', Routledge, London and New York, 1996

Anti-GM scientists and activists are increasingly having their credibility attacked through a campaign orchestrated by the biotech industry. Now that campaign has seen a prestigious scientific journal become the latest casualty.

The attacks against the journal Nature culminated in the publication last week of an admission that it was wrong to print a scientific paper last year that was critical of GM. The admission was the first in the journal's history. It is apparently the latest example of biotech giants using front organisations and websites to discredit scientific research that criticises GM technology.

The saga started last November when Nature published an article by scientists from the University of California Berkeley that alleged contamination of native Mexican maize by GM. As Mexico has a moratorium on commercial GM planting, it raised issues of genetic pollution in a centre of unique maize biodiversity.

The paper led to the researchers and Nature being attacked by pro-GM scientists and the biotech industry. Nature finally buckled under the pressure, issuing a statement saying it had concluded "that the evidence available is not sufficient to justify the publication of the original paper".

"It is clearly a topic of hot interest", says Jo Webber from Nature, admitting that this story is not just "technical" but also "political".

The political context is that the biotech industry is trying to lift European, Brazilian and Mexican moratoria on genetically modified seeds or foods. It is desperate to open up Europe, having lost more than $200 million due to the moratorium on growing of GM corn alone. Nature has refused to comment further about the row.

This week sees crucial negotiations at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in The Hague. The Nature statement could not have come at a better time and the biotech industry is naturally gleeful. "Many people are going to need that [Nature's editorial] reference", says Willy De Greef from Syngenta, the world's leading agribusiness company, "not least those who, like me, will be in the frontline fights for biotech during the Hague negotiations".

Despite Nature's climb-down, the authors of the original study, David Quist and Ignacio Chapela, have published new evidence that they say vindicates their original findings. They add that two other studies by the Mexican government confirm their research and believe Nature has been "under incredible pressure from the powers that be".

"This is a very, very well concerted, co-ordinated and paid for campaign to discredit the very simple statement that we made," says Dr Chapela.

The central co-ordinator of the attacks has been CS Prakash who is a professor of Plant Molecular Genetics at Tuskegee University, Alabama, and who runs the AgBioWorld Foundation. AgBioWorld was co-founded by an employee of the Washington-based right-wing think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Prakash calls the Quist and Chapela study "flawed" and says the "results did not justify the conclusions." He says that they were "too eager to publish their results because it fitted their agenda".

Prakash's pro-GM website has been the central discussion forum of the Nature article. "I think it played a fairly important role in putting public pressure on Nature because we have close to 3,700 people on Agbioview, our daily newsletter, and immediately after this paper was published, many scientists started posting some preliminary analysis that they were doing.

"AgBioView has brought together those scientists and AgBioWorld provided a collective voice for the scientific community". These discussions led to a highly critical and influential statement attacking Nature that received over 80 signatories.

Two letters signed by pro-GM scientists that criticised Nature's original publication were also printed in the same issue as the journal's retraction. The lead authors of the letters, Matthew Metz and Nick Kaplinsky, signed the pro-biotech statement on the website.

Both have or have had links with the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at Berkeley that entered into a $25 million deal with Novartis (now Syngenta), a deal that was opposed by Chapela. "It became a very big scandal and they cannot forgive that", says Chapela.


But most importantly it wasn't scientists but a PR company that works for GM firm Monsanto that started and fuelled the anti-Nature debate on Prakash's website. On the list serv the first attack was posted by someone called 'Mary Murphy' within hours of publication. She wrote: "It should also be noted that the author of the Nature article, Ignacio H Chapela, is on the board of directors of the Pesticide Action Network North America, an activist group". Murphy accused Chapela of being "not exactly what you'd call an unbiased writer".

The next bulletin was from someone called 'Andura Smetacek' who claimed Chapela was in league with environmental groups and added, wrongly, that his paper was "not a peer-reviewed research article subject to independent scientific analysis". Smetacek and Murphy have between them posted around 60 articles on the Prakash list. So who are they?

Mary Murphy's email is mmrph@hotmail.com, which hides her employer. On one occasion on an internet message board she used this address but also left a trail of other identifying details that showed she worked for the Bivings Group, a PR company with offices in Washington, Brussels, Chicago and Tokyo.

Bivings, which has more than a dozen Monsanto companies as clients, has been assisting Monsanto's use of the internet since realising that it played a significant part in the company's poor PR image. Bivings says it uses the internet's "powerful message delivery tools" for "viral dissemination".


When asked about what they do for Monsanto, a spokesperson for Bivings said "We run their web sites for various European countries and their main corporate site and we help them with campaigns as a consultant. We are not allowed to discuss strategy issues and personal opinions". They declined to give any further information on their work for the company.

However, further insight can be gleaned from a recent report by Bivings which said: "Message boards, chat rooms and listservs are a great way to anonymously monitor what is being said. Once you are plugged into this world, it is possible to make postings to these outlets that present your position as an uninvolved third party."

As a "third party" Bivings has covertly smeared biotech industry critics on a fake website called CFFAR as well as via articles and attacks on listservs under aliases. The attack on the Nature piece is a continuation of this covert campaign.

Andura Smetacek is no stranger to such dirty tricks. The Big Issue South West can also reveal that she was the original source of a letter that was published under the name of Tony Trevawas, a pro-GM scientist from the University of Edinburgh, in the Herald newspaper in Scotland. The letter became a source of legal action between Greenpeace, its former director, Peter Melchett, and the newspaper. The case went to the high court and ended with Melchett receiving undisclosed damages and an apology from the Herald. Trevawas has always denied he wrote the letter.

In a letter written earlier this year, Smetacek said: "I am the author of the message which was sent to AgBioWorld. I'm surprised at the stir it has caused, since the basis for the content of the letter comes from publicly available news articles and research easily found on-line".

Smetacek is also a "front email". In an early posting to the AgBioView list she gave her address as London, while in a recent correspondence with The Ecologist magazine Smetacek left a New York phone number. However after extensive searching of public records in the US, the Big Issue South West found no one in America with that name. Despite numerous requests by The Ecologist for Smetacek to give an employer or land address she has refused to do so.

A clue to her identity is that Smetacek's earliest messages to AgBioView consistently promoted the CFFAR.org website. CFFAR stands for the Centre For Food and Agricultural Research and describes itself as "a public policy and research coalition dedicated to exploring and understanding health, safety, and sustainability issues associated with food and fiber production".

In fact the website attacks organic agriculture as well as environmental groups, like Greenpeace, by calling them "terrorists". The website is registered to an employee of Bivings who works as one of Monsanto's web-gurus.

Even the AgBioWorld Foundation website is linked to Bivings.

Jonathan Matthews, a leading anti-GM activist, has researched the activities of Bivings. While searching the AgbioWorld archives he received a message that told him that an attempt to connect him to a Bivings database had failed. Internet experts believe that this message implies Bivings is hosting an AgBioView database. These experts also notice technical similarities between the CFFAR, Bivings and AgBioWorld websites.

Prakash, though, denies receiving funding or assistance for the AgbioWorld foundation, saying that it is run on a "shoestring". He denies working with any PR company saying he is "pro-the technology not necessarily the companies".

However, Matthews said: "Via Bivings, Monsanto has a series of shop windows with which to influence the GM debate. One of these is AgBioWorld. The chief mannequin seems to be Prakash who has been very influential in the whole Nature/GM corn contamination fiasco. But I wonder if Nature really knows who is behind the attacks."

Dr Sue Mayer from GeneWatch UK says: "It is quite extraordinary the lengths the biotech industry and the scientific establishment will go to discredit any critical science."

Thanks for sending this article go to Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin), http://www.ngin.org.uk
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Re: Monsanto's Mexican Maize Mischief, by sourcewatch.org

Postby admin » Mon Jan 25, 2016 10:06 am

THE GM WAR OF WORDS
by Jonathan Matthews
Letters, The Guardian
20 May 2002

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The editor of Nature, Philip Campbell, can't get away with claiming that his disowning of a paper on GM maize contamination in Mexico published in his journal had nothing to do with the hate campaign waged against its authors (Letters, May 15 ).

Campbell's assertion that this unprecedented step was prompted purely by the paper's technical deficiencies fails to explain not only the paper's successful completion of Nature's stringent peer review process in the first place, but also why only one of three reviewers of the subsequent exchanges between the paper's critics and its authors called for its retraction.

In the past Campbell has editorialised against an "industrial-biotechnology complex out of control". The tracks of this runaway juggernaut now run right across the editorial pages of his own journal.

Jonathan Matthews
Norwich

*****

GM: And yet it moves
by Ignacio H. Chapela
Letters, The Guardian
24 May 2002

From his position as editor of Nature, Philip Campbell has provided the world with measured and intelligent leadership in biology, at a time of radical transformations in our discipline. It is puzzling that he would have chosen to side with a vociferous minority in obfuscating the reality of the contamination of one of the world's main crops with transgenic DNA of industrial origin (Letters, May 15).

Perhaps the key lies in his tacit acknowledgment, albeit by dismissal, of the enormous pressures on anyone working in or around the biological sciences ever since we were set on a collision course with commercial interests. He is right in pointing out that modern science should not be - and is not normally - carried out through the obscurantist practices exposed by George Monbiot (The fake persuaders, May 14). But Philip Campbell's participation, however reluctant, in these practices seems to be further evidence of the insidious challenges facing open discourse in biology.

Our discovery of transgenic DNA in Mexican landraces of maize has never been seriously challenged and continues to be confirmed. There is no legitimate reason why we should have acquiesced in Nature's insinuations for a retraction, or why Nature should have taken the unprecedented measure of unilaterally withdrawing its support for our paper, which its own peer-review system recognised as valid and important.

Neither of the two letters published by Nature, purportedly showing fatal flaws in our paper, ever questioned our main discovery. All results to date from our laboratory, as well as those from independent studies using a variety of methods, continue to support our statements
(Mexico's vital gene reservoir polluted by modified maize, April 19). It is perplexing that Nature would have chosen to side with the opinion of a single critic, against the concordant indications of a tandem of independent reviewers appointed by the journal itself, and against all empirical evidence.

Science has progressed in modern times by the presentation of results which are subsequently refined or rectified by further empirical work. As Nature well knows, the self-perpetuating genetic contamination of our crops will remain as an undeniable ecological reality for others to confirm. But will we, as a society, have the independent, public infrastructure to confront this and other similar challenges derived from our transformation of the biosphere?

The coordinated attempt to discredit our discoveries in the public piazza sends a chilling message to those who would dare ask important but uncomfortable questions and find their truthful answers. It is an assault on the very foundation of science.

Against those who would like to bury from public view the reality of the uncontrolled movement of transgenic DNA in the environment, I can only echo the words of Galileo: "Eppur si muove" [And yet it moves].

Ignacio H Chapela
Berkeley, California

***
SPIKED!
by Philip Campbell
Letters, The Guardian
15 May 2002

George Monbiot wrongly states that I was forced to withdraw our endorsement of a paper that we had published by a campaign of character assassination against the authors (The fake persuaders, May 14).

The retraction was necessitated by technical flaws in the paper that came to our attention after its publication (which we should have picked up), and by the authors' decision not to retract the paper themselves. Our decision to make the statement had nothing to do with the fact that the paper was about genetic modification. It must have been Murphy's law that ensured that our technical oversight, embarrassing in itself, was in relation to a paper about one of the most hotly debated technologies of our time.

Philip Campbell
Editor, Nature
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Re: Monsanto's Mexican Maize Mischief, by sourcewatch.org

Postby admin » Tue Jan 26, 2016 4:12 am

Mexico's vital gene reservoir polluted by modified maize
by Paul Brown, environment correspondent
The Guardian
19 April 2002

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The Mexican government has confirmed that despite its ban on genetically modified maize, there is massive contamination of crops in areas that act as the gene bank for one of the world's staple crops.

The announcement of the worst ever contamination of crops by GM varieties was made yesterday at the biodiversity convention meeting in the Hague.


It fuels the controversy stirred by the discovery of mutant strains of maize, which was originally reported in November in the journal Nature and then embarrassingly disowned by the journal earlier this month.

But speaking at the Hague, Jorge Soberon, a senior civil servant and the executive secretary of Mexico's national commission on biodiversity, said government tests had now shown the level of contamination was far worse than initially reported.

Mexico is the home of hundreds of varieties of maize which are allowed to crossbreed to produce the best crops for extreme conditions.

To preserve this gene bank, the government banned planting of GM crops in 1998.


At first, Mexico rejected the claims of contamination which were published in Nature by Ignacio Chapela and David Quist, of the University of California at Berkeley.

But the government went on to take samples from sites in two states, Oaxaca and Puebla, said Ezequiel Ezcurra, the director of the institute of ecology at the ministry of the environment in Mexico. The states are the genetic home of maize.

A total of 1,876 seedlings was taken, and evidence of contamination was found at 95% of the sites. One field had 35% contamination of plants.

Mr Soberon confirmed this infiltration of supposedly pure strains was the worst recorded anywhere.


"There is no doubt about it," he said. "We found it in 8% of seeds kernel by kernel."

It appeared that maize imported into Mexico from the US for the production of tortillas may have been used as seed by farmers who were unaware that it contained grain derived from GM crops.

The worst contamination was found near main roads, along which maize is sold to villagers. In remote areas, contamination was down to between 1 and 2%.

The revealing factor was the presence of the cauliflower mosaic virus, which is used widely in GM crops to "switch on" insecticides which have been inserted into them.

Mr Soberon said the GM developers Monsanto, Syngenta and Aventis all used the same technology.

The government could not find out which of the three varieties of GM maize was responsible for the contamination because the companies refused to disclose which protein they used in such a commercially sensitive project.

"I find that extremely difficult to accept," he said. "How can you monitor what is going on if they do not allow you the information to do it?"


The research is continuing and, after the dispute that followed the publication of the original paper, the Mexican government is having it carefully reviewed by peers before offering it for publication in a scientific journal.
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Re: Monsanto's Mexican Maize Mischief, by sourcewatch.org

Postby admin » Thu Feb 04, 2016 9:53 am

Cows Ate GM Maize & Died
This latest incident in a German farm raises tough questions for our government’s scientific advisors who have persisted in ignoring scientific evidence that GM food is far from safe. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Sam Burcher call for a public enquiry.
by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Sam Burcher

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GM maize and dead cows

Twelve diary cows died after being fed GM maize and silage. This happened on a farm in Woelfersheim in the state of Hesse, Germany.

According to the report by Greenpeace Germany, "common errors in feeding and infections had by and large been ruled out as the cause of death", and the farmer involved, Gottfried Glöckner, a supporter of GM crops, now suspects that Syngenta’s GM maize Bt 176 is to be blamed.

Bt 176 contains multiple complex traits, including insect resistance – conferred by a toxin from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis – and tolerance to the herbicide glufosinate. It was produced initially by the company Ciba-Giegy in 1994, and acquired subsequently by biotech giant Syngenta.

Glöckner has been growing Bt 176 increasingly in his fields since 1997, and in 2000 and 2001, switched over entirely to GM maize. Shortly thereafter, five of his cows died within four months in 2001, and another seven in 2002. The rate of milk production decreased in some of the remaining cows and others had to be slaughtered because of unknown illnesses.

Syngenta obtained a European license to market GM maize Bt 176 in 1997 and is currently growing 20 000 hectares commercially in Spain. The US license for the crop expired in 2001 and was not renewed. Austria, Luxembourg and Italy have banned its cultivation.

In Germany, safety concerns were raised in early 2000, causing the German Robert Koch Institute to announce " the suspension of the authorisation for putting the maize line 00256-176 and its derivatives on the market, unless it is cultivation for research or trial purposes."

In November 2001, Glöckner reported the demise of his herd to Robert Koch Institute in Hesse, who were regulating the GM trials on behalf of Syngenta Corporation. In 2002, he was awarded compensation of 40 000 euros by Syngenta for five dead cows, decreased milk yields and vets bills. In February 2002 he decided to stop feeding his cattle GM maize altogether, but by October 2002 a further seven cows had died. The distraught farmer, who by this time was over 100 000 euros out of pocket called upon Syngenta and the Robert Koch Institute to conduct a proper investigation.

Cause of death unknown

The Robert Koch Institute impounded neither the dead cows nor the GM feed from the farm and carried out no comprehensive tests on the soil from the farm or any dung samples from the cows in question. What investigations they made on the GM maize feed from the farm ended in December 2002 with inconclusive evidence as to what caused the death of the cows. This was backed up by the local district council in Giessen who issued a statement in August 2003 that "the cause of the incidents referred to could not be determined."

But only one of the five dead cows in 2001 was examined at the pathology institute at Giessen. Additional tissue samples were sent to the University of Göttingen, "where they vanished in unexplained circumstances", according to Greenpeace’s report.

The regulatory maze surrounding another Syngenta Bt maize

Further concerns are being raised over another Syngenta GM maize, Bt 11, destined for human consumption in 2004, if approved by the European Council of Ministers, because it contains the same protein that according to Syngenta, was in the Bt176 maize fed to the German cows.

Despite the UK Food Standards Agency’s recommendations to the Standing Committee of the Foodchain and Animal Health in December 2003 that GM maize Bt 11 is safe for human consumption, the five-year old de-facto moratorium remains in place in Europe, thanks to other member-countries who voted against approving Bt 11.

However, the approval process for Bt 11 as food is being processed under the Novel Food Regulation, which is not as strict as the new GM Food and Feed Regulation. The new legislation provides for approval under the old rules, if the application received a final scientific assessment before the new rules apply, as in the case of Bt 11. Nevertheless, Bt 11, if approved, will be subject to the new labelling and traceability legislation. Indeed Bt 11 sweet corn will fail to meet new EU food safety criteria, which clearly state that short term and long term effects of food safety on future generations must be taken into account, according to Article 14 (4) of EC Regulation 178/2002 (the general legislation on food law and food safety, not the Novel Food Regulation).

"Poison protein" in Bt maize?

A chief suspect for the death of the cows in Hesse is the Bt protein contained in Bt 176, which Syngenta says is Cry1Ab, the same as in Bt 11.

Studies conducted in Japan in 2003 clearly showed that undigested Bt toxin Cry1Ab is present in calf stomach, intestine and dung after being fed Bt 11 maize; and these results have been replicated in further experiments in pigs. Both transgenic DNA and toxin protein fragments were detected in pigs fed Bt 11 maize (see "Transgenic DNA and Bt toxin survive digestion", this series). Both normal and transgenic DNA break down much more slowly in vivo than Syngenta previously assumed.

The Austrian Government is putting up a valiant fight to resist the introduction of GM products into the food chain, and has issued a report questioning the validity of Syngenta’s evaluation of GM maize Bt 11 for human consumption. Their report concludes that Syngenta has based the safety of Bt 11 on assumptions rather than scientific evidence.

To date there are no scientific studies on the long-term effects of eating Bt 11 and no toxicological testing on the whole GM maize plant. Tests for allergic reactions to Bt 11 were insufficient and relied on theoretical argument rather than scientific evidence.

Farmer Glöckner now fears that his pastures are contaminated with the Bt 176 toxin by decomposing dung from his cows leaching into the soil where it can bind with the minerals in the clay, and remain harmful to many organisms. He has called upon Greenpeace to lobby Robert Koch Institute and Syngenta to re-open the investigation into the death of his cows.

Bt 176 worse than it appears

But worse is in store. Molecular analysis recently carried out suggests that the toxin in Bt 176 may not be Cry1Ab, but Cry1Ac, and that Bt 11, which is engineered with Cry1Ab, may be contaminated with Bt 176, so it will have Cry1Ac and well as CrylAb (see "Unstable transgenic lines illegal", this issue).

Molecular analysis has recently been carried out both by French and Belgian government scientists.

Their results revealed that the Bt gene in Bt 176 showed 94% similarity with a synthetic construct of crylAc gene, but only 65% homology with the native cry1Ab gene of Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki strain HD1, from which it was supposed to have been derived. This suggests that the company has misreported or misidentified the transgene present. This is extremely serious.

Syngenta is maintaining that Bt toxin can only deleteriously affect certain insect larvae, thus bestowing insect resistance to their GM maize. But many Bt toxinx are potential allergens and immunogens. A study in 2000 found that the Cry1Ac protein is a potent immunogen and does bind to the intestinal wall of mice, causing significant changes in the gut cells. Bt 176 expresses very high levels of the toxin (see "Bt toxin binds to mouse intestine", this series).

Many Bt transgenes are synthetic, including the one in Bt 176. They are hybrids of multiple toxins. That means Bt transgenes not only risk killing more species of insects than intended, but may also contain previously unknown toxicities for other animals and human beings (see "Regulatory sham on Bt crops", this issue).

Bt 176 is also the worst GM crop in terms of stability and uniformity. There are multiple transgenic inserts, the number of inserts depending on the source. This makes it very difficult to pin down the precise problems with the GM crop. There may be more than one problem with Bt 176 from different sources, or due to continuing instabilities in one seed lot, depending on where the unstable inserts have landed in the plant genome.

The transgenic inserts of Bt 176 have undergone rampant rearrangements – since characterised by the company - many involving the well-known recombination (fragmentation) hotspot, the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) 35S promoter.

The CaMV 35S promoter, as ISIS has repeatedly warned, is a very powerful promoter active in all species including humans. It leads to over-expression of genes downstream from it. Over-expressing of certain oncogenes are involved in cancer.

Transgenic DNA containing the CaMV 35S promoter is an invasive DNA, capable of inserting into all genomes, including those of animal cells, and hence carries the risk of triggering cancer.

The molecular analysis of Bt 11 reveals that it may be contaminated with Bt 176, and we have warned various European governments as well as the European Food Safety Authority’s Scientific Panel on GMOs against its market approval.

Public enquiry needed

Greenpeace is demanding an immediate ban on Bt 176 and a full scientific investigation into the death of the cows at Woelfersheim in Hesse.

It is clear that farmers who support GM run the risk of being under-compensated for their livestock and harvests should anything go wrong. It appears that environmental risks and hazards on the farm even during field trials are not something that GM companies accept full liability for.

Syngenta has been growing Bt 176 in Spain at low levels since 1997, and is relying on that as a showcase of how GM and non-GM crops can co-exist in Europe (see "Syngenta’s Spanish GM trojan horse", this series). It has been kept at 4-5% of the total maize acreage, and all of it has been mixed with conventional maize that’s not specifically labelled GM-free, which is mostly fed to cattle. The Woelfersheim experience shows that increasing the level of GM feed may end in disaster. Furthermore, contamination of Spain’s organic maize has already been found, which can destroy the growing market for this commodity.

The cows at Woelfersheim are by no means an isolated case indicating that GM feed is far from safe. It must be seen in the light of already existing evidence in the scientific literature that GM feed had adverse effects on laboratory rats and mice (see "Liver of mice fed GM soya works overtime", this series), largely corroborating the findings of the much maligned senior UK scientist Arpad Pusztai and his collaborators. To that must be added a host of anecdotal reports by farmers and others that animals avoid GM feed, if given the choice, and if force-fed GM, fail to thrive (see "Animals avoid GM food, for good reasons", this series).

Apart from a full scientific investigation into the safety of GM food and feed, we demand a public enquiry into the serious abuse of scientific evidence by our government’s scientific advisors, which have allowed GM crops to be grown commercially (in some countries) and GM food to go on sale in our markets.
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