- The media has been saturated with statements from scientific
bodies to assure us that GM foods have been 'rigorously tested' and are
'totally safe' . The Chief Scientist, the Royal Society, the Nuffield Foundation,
the American Food and Drug Administration and the European Commissioner
for food safety are just a few of those that have made such statements.
Surely they can't all be wrong?
- Two months ago I began a survey to classify and evaluate
the existing independent published research on GM food safety. I was interested
to find the best research.. I wanted to find out about long-term experiments
to detect possible effects that may take a few years to appear. I wanted
to find out about tests on human volunteers and tests to detect effects
on children, the elderly or those prone to allergies. I wanted to look
at research that had been published in respected academic publications,
such as the Journal of Nutrition, and that had then been peer-reviewed
by other scientists. I was to be sorely disappointed.
- I e-mailed all the experts - the biotech companies, government
regulatory bodies in the UK and USA and the leading academics promoting
the genetic engineering of food and crops - all of whom would have the
facts at their fingertips and be keen to share them. Monsanto initially
sent a vast list of references but these turned out not to relate to published
data but merely a collection of opinions and statements by geneticists
and government bodies. That was not very reassuring so I tried again to
find real data - without success. The response from the Nuffield Foundation
was almost identical.
- Professor C S Prakash, the USA's biotech "ambassador",
promised to send the elusive data but warned me that "much of such
research is financed by agbiotech companies and it is hard to identify
even when seemingly they appear not to be financed by companies".
In his follow-up message that contained no references to published data,
he explained "you will notice that much of this is not from referred
publications (a discussion on the paucity of this research has just appeared
in recent Science magazine)".
- The British Medical Association, representing the UK's
doctors, has not blindly rubber-stamped the technology. They stated that
"The BMA's Board of Science is not aware of any major independent
research considering the long term health effects of GM foods that has
been published since our report was issued". This report, published
last year, called for a moratorium until the necessary research on GM food
and crops had been carried out.
- Despite receiving many other responses, the mystery data
never did appear - and respondents defensively explained that such research
would be 'unnecessary', 'excessive' or 'impossible' and, indeed, that requests
for such research were 'hysterical'. [If any readers can find the missing
information please do pass it on to me].
- I seem to have discovered the reason for there being
'no data to suggest that GM foods may be dangerous' - the reason is that
there is no data. fullstop! No data means no bad data. The UK Government
claims to be 'pro-science' yet it has commissioned no experiments to compare
the effects of conventional and GM foods on animals or on humans that have
led to the publication of any data (with one exception). Is their reason
for not doing the research the same as the reason the Pope refused to look
through Galileo 's telescope? - fear of what they might find. Like the
Pope, the scientific establishment is using its status to support its opinions
rather than relying on factual data. In an age when multinational corporations
fund most research this is a highly disturbing development.
- The 144 UK organizations - from the Women's Institute
to the Local Government Association - who are calling for a 'Five Year
Freeze' on GM food and crops so that proper research can take place - have
been called irrational Luddites and technophobes. It looks now, however,
as if the government and the biotech companies are the ones that are really
afraid of independent scientific research. Its time for us to demand facts.
- There was, as I mentioned, one exception, a single published
report on a government-sponsored research project. It was published in
the Lancet, the Journal of the British Medical Association, and was of
course the results of Dr Arpad Pustzai's research into the effects of GM
potatoes on rats. Maybe that fact alone explains why no more research of
- In parallel with this e-mail I have sent another one
entitled PLAY GMQUEST2000 - a game in which players try to get the truth
about safety testing from the GM corporations, geneticists and politicians..
Please forward copies to your contacts.
- [Robert Vint is the National Co-ordinator of Genetic
Food Alert - the joint campaign of wholefood wholesalers, retailers and
manufacturers for GM-Free food. [ Website www.geneticfoodalert.org.uk ,
e-mail email@example.com ] _____
- "Swapping genes between organisms can produce unknown
toxic effects and allergies that are most likely to affect children"
- Dr Vyvyan Howard: expert in infant toxico-pathology at Liverpool University
Hospital, UK. (Ref: The Guardian: 19/3/98)
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