An independent scientist working on a state-funded long-term feeding study, designed to test the safety of GM crops, has come under unprecedented and sustained attack from a Government Minister in Western Australia (1).
Press Notice from GM-Free Cymru 16 November 2009
In 2005 Dr Judy Carman and her team at the Institute of Health and Environmental Research (IHER) in Adelaide obtained $92,000 in research funding from the Government of Western Australia for an independent animal feeding study into the safety of GM crops (2). The Agriculture Minister at the time, Mr Kim Chance, stated that his Government wanted to “gain data on the safety or otherwise of GM food crops”. Far from welcoming this study, the GM industry and its political and commercial allies sought to block it, initially by urging the WA government to reverse its funding decision, then by either refusing to supply GM crops to the research team or placing such onerous conditions upon supplies that the researchers could not sign up to them, and finally through the use of defamatory statements to the media, intimidation and even personal threats.
Nonetheless, in the face of almost insurmountable obstacles, the study and its funding were confirmed by the Government in 2007, and it is now well under way.
At the time when the study was commissioned, Western Australia had a Labour Government which maintained a moratorium on the growing of GM crops within its territory. However, following the last election a pro-GM conservative coalition government was formed with a narrow majority, and it immediately set about the dismantling of the moratorium by permitting large-scale trial plantings of GM canola (3). It also embarked upon a “public consultation” or review of the 2003 GM Free Areas Act which ended in mid-September 2009. The review process has attracted heavy criticism, not least from the WA Local Government Association, on the grounds that it was hardly advertised at all, and that its terms of reference were very narrow indeed. Nonetheless, it attracted more than 400 responses.
It is now Government policy to repeal the 2003 GM Free Areas Act, and to allow commercial plantings of GM canola and other crops as from 2010. It is clear that Agriculture Minister Terry Redman is determined not to wait for the completion of the GM feeding study at IHER before declaring publicly that “GM crops are safe”, and that he is seeking to undermine the credibility of the study and its key scientists through the use of journalists such as Colin Bettles of Farm Weekly and GM industry spokesmen such as Dr Ian Edwards. It is also clear that he will call upon FSANZ to provide him with whatever “scientific” evidence he needs to support his pro-GM political stance. The support of FSANZ can be taken for granted, since it rarely if ever questions the “GM safety assessments” provided by the GM multinationals,and has passed every GM crop it has ever assessed as being safe to eat.
This recent political assault on IHER is simply en extension of a campaign of personal intimidation and vilification which has been directed at Dr Carman and her colleagues over several years. Among the most implacable and vociferous opponents of the research has been Dr Ian Edwards (4), who takes it upon himself to represent the interests of the Australian biotechnology companies. He has been supported by Prof Bruce Chassy, Prof Vivian Moses, and Dr Alan McHughen, three men who were intimately involved in the infamous “Nature Biotechnology” scam which set up another “dissident scientist” (Dr Irina Ermakova) for a premeditated attack on her research methods and results, with the aid of a dummy proof and a compliant Editor (5).
Commenting for GM-Free Cymru, Dr Brian John said: “It may seen strange that we in Wales should be concerned about what is happening on the other side of the world. But we see it as part of our function to draw attention to breaches in scientific ethics wherever they occur, and to uncover the rotten foundations on which the gigantic GM edifice is built. The intimidation and vilification of independent scientists working in the GM field is commonplace (6), and it is only within the last few months that the mainstream scientific journals are showing some willingness to address the issues of GM “research blocking” and scientific fraud (7). What is at stake here is academic freedom itself — for if competent and honest scientists cannot undertake their peer-reviewed work on GM safety free of intimidation, public health itself is at risk. Why does the GM industry resort to such tactics? Are its leaders and its spokesmen so afraid of what might be revealed in published studies which have gone through all of the accepted academic procedures? In answer to those questions, one can only suppose that they already know what long-term feeding studies of GM crops and foods will reveal, and that they are seriously afraid………
“The blatant political interference in the conduct of the scientific research at IHER is even more worrying. Agriculture Minister Terry Redmond is seeking to undermine a serious GM research project simply because he is concerned by what it might reveal. So he is getting his retaliation in first. That is not only the petulant and pathetic response of a bully — it is also thoroughly irresponsible. But he is in good company. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was personally involved in the sacking and vilification of the respected GM scientist Dr Arpad Pusztai in 1999 when he had the temerity to discover that animals which ate GM potatoes suffered from a number of potentially damaging physiological changes (8). In 2001 Mexican government ministers attempted to intimidate Prof Ignacio Chapela into withdrawing or renouncing his work which showed that the country”s maize landraces were contaminated by GM cross-pollination (9). In the United States, political interference within the GM science community is commonplace; it is common knowledge that in the 1990″s, FDA scientists” warnings about transgenic foods were systematically ignored by politically appointed administrators (10). In many countries “dissident” GM research workers have lost their jobs or have had their research facilities closed down because of political manipulation behind the scenes. This is an appalling state of affairs, which should cause all of us, as citizens and consumers, to rise up in protest — not least because those scientists whose studies have been subjected to political attack, have almost always been proved right when follow-up work has been done.
“We therefore call upon the scientific community to stand up for the rights of honest scientists to conduct their work according to the highest standards, free of political, commercial and industrial interference. We have also written to Minister Terry Redman (11) asking him to abandon his disgraceful campaign against IHER and Dr Carman and her team, and to await the results of their studies before making any hasty decisions on GM crops and foods.”
Contact: Dr Brian John GM-Free Cymru 16th November 2009
(1) The Minister involved is Terry Redmond, currently Agriculture and Food Minister. See this: WA rejects GM study COLIN BETTLES 05 Nov, 2009 http://fw.farmonline.com.au/news/state/grains-and-cropping/barley/wa-rejects-gm-study/1668291.aspx
COLIN BETTLES Farm Weekly, Australia 12 Nov, 2009 Call for inquiry into GM feed study funding
(2) In a November 2005 communique, West Australia Minister of Agriculture Kim Chance announced that his government would finance an independent study on feeding animals with GMO: “The state government is aware of the anxiety concerning GMO safety, while most of the research in this domain is conducted or financed by the very companies promoting GMOs.” This decision was influenced at least in part by the revelation (Vanessa Prescott et al., Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, 2005, p. 9023) that the transfer of a gene that expresses an insecticide protein from a bean to a pea had provoked unexpected signs of an allergic reaction among mice. This made headlines in the Australian and English press, and led CSIRO to stop development of the transgenic pea.
(3) The new Government ignored reports written as a result of lengthy deliberations by a panel of pro- and anti- GM interests into the effects of introducing GM crops that was undertaken by the previous government. More recently: ” ……… the GM Crops Free Areas Act 2003 is currently under review with the Government calling for public submissions by the August 14 closing date. Mr Redman allowed an exemption to the Act this year, giving the green light to the large scale trials on 17 farms in WA, and three research stations, for a total of about 850ha. Grains industry participants will now turn their attention to Mr Redman and the Liberal-National Government, urging them to lift the ban completely.” (Colin Bettles, Farm Weekly) http://fw.farmonline.com.au/news/state/grains-and-cropping/general/tha nks-for-gm-trials-now-lift-the-ban/1594034.aspx
(4) Dr Ian Edwards is Chairman of the AgBio Advisory Group in AusBiotech, Australia”s biotechnology organisation. He is currently Managing Director of Edstar Genetics Pty Ltd., and is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Western Australia. See this: Food Safety Western Australia Style: A Note from Ian Edwards, June 25, 2007 http://www.jennifermarohasy.com/blog/archives/002115.html
Letter from 12 scientists to the Premier of Western Australia, The Hon Dr Geoff Gallop, BEc MA MPhil DPhil MLA 5th December 2005 http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/rottweiler.htm
(6) Monsanto”s harvest of fear
Scientists speak out against GM science fraud
Pusztai 1999 – Carrasco 2009 Glyphosate whistle-blower comes under sustained attack
“GM crops: Battlefield” by Emily Waltz Nature 461, 27-32 (2009) doi:10.1038/461027a, 2 September 2009 Do Seed Companies Control GM Crop Research? Scientists must ask corporations for permission before publishing independent research on genetically modified crops. That restriction must end By The Editors August 2009 Scientific American Magazine
The Genetic Engineering of Food and the Failure of Science – Part 2: Academic Capitalism and the Loss of Scientific Integrity by Don Lotter Int. Jrnl. of Soc. of Agr. & Food, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 50-68
(8)Rowell, Andrew (2003). Don”t worry, it”s safe to eat: the true story of GM food, BSE, & Foot and Mouth. Earthscan. ISBN 1853839329.
(9) Jeffrey Smith, “Seeds of Deception” p 225 The Case of Mexican Maize Johannes Wirz
(10) The Genetic Engineering of Food and the Failure of Science – Part 2: Academic Capitalism and the Loss of Scientific Integrity by Don Lotter Int. Jrnl. of Soc. of Agr. & Food, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 50-68
(11) Letter available on request