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GM health risks – a conspiracy of silence

1.UK media – a conspiracy of silence over GM health risks
2.Has BBC reporting effectively limited the damage done to the current corporate–political drive to promote GM crops in Britain?
3.Who is Séralini?
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1.UK media – a conspiracy of silence over GM health risks
Lawrence Woodward
NYR Natural News, 24 September 2012
http://www.nyrnaturalnews.com/campaigning/uk-media-a-conspiracy-of-silence-over-gm-health-risks/

Last week saw the publication of the most important piece of research about the health risks of genetically engineered foods in recent years.

It was widely covered in France and other EU countries; it was big news in the US where all the major media carried the story – over 10,000 articles appeared there during the week; and in the UK – monumental indifference.

Only the Daily Mail, the Grocer and Food Navigator (an online news service) did it justice; Reuters, the Financial Times, the Telegraph (an article and an unintelligent blog rant) did cover the story but failed to grasp its significance and fell for the spoiling tactics of an industry lobby group.

And as for the BBC, our national beacon of light, truth and integrity; a single fleeting mention on its website with only enough energy to feature the smokescreen put out by pro-GM lobbyists.

There was not a peep from The Times, The Guardian or The Independent. All of which have, for the last 18 months, carried pages and pages of pro-GM stories fantasising about how genetic engineering is going to solve nutritional problems, obesity, crop diseases and water shortages.

These newspapers have sycophantically reported on small GM research trials about purple tomatoes, blood oranges and cooking oil as if civilisation depended on such things. Yet, they completely ignore this new research which reveals significant health risks and the inadequacy of the GM regulatory system.

France to act; UK stays silent

The research on rats, carried out at the University of Caen in France, found that GM maize, GM maize sprayed with Roundup and Roundup itself causes tumours, multiple organ damage and premature death.

According to Dr Michael Antoniou, molecular biologist at Kings College, London, “This is the most thorough research ever published into the health effects of GM food crops and the herbicide Roundup on rats. It shows an extraordinary number of tumours developing earlier and more aggressively – particularly in female animals.”

French government ministers are so concerned by the findings that they have asked its National Agency for Health Safety to investigate and say that if necessary will suspend imports of the GM maize.

So why have parts of the UK media ignored the story and others just shrugged it off? Is there a pro-GM media conspiracy; is this down to corruption, incompetence, culture or simple stupidity and laziness; or a mixture?

A corrupt media – or just plain lazy?

It’s tempting to ascribe corrupt motives to the almost universally pro-GM position taken by journalists (there are some notable exceptions) in the last couple of years, but the image of brown paper bags of cash being passed around in London’s media wine bars isn’t very convincing.

True, the case of the Guardian does make one think a bit. Since taking Gates Foundation sponsorship their pro-GM coverage seems to have increased to the point, at times, of feeling like the PR arm of Bill and Melinda’s GM crusade.

But no, more believable is the satirical verse which says;

‘You cannot hope to bribe or twist,

thank God! the British journalist.

But, seeing what the man will do

unbribed, there’s no occasion to.’

This was quoted earlier this year by science writer Colin Macilwain in an article published in the journal Nature.

Macilwain went on to say that “The British press – led by the BBC, which treats the Confederation of British Industry [CBI] with the deference the Vatican gets in Rome – is overwhelmingly conservative and pro-business in its outlook.”

As far as coverage of GM is concerned, it’s not the CBI leading the journalists by the nose; it’s the Science Media Centre (SMC). This respectably sounding organisation purports to help journalists understand science; in fact, it is funded by industry and the pro-GM research establishment and it peddles their pro-GM line.

Science Media Centre’s invidious influence

Who knows whether too many of today’s journalists are hard pressed for time or just lazy; who knows if they have the knowledge or intelligence to ask questions or if they just can’t be bothered?

What we do know is that the SMC spoon feeds them information and handy quotes; gives them partisan briefings (possibly in convivial circumstances); and provides them with the first, and all too often only, port of call when something needs to be written.

As soon as this new research came out last week the SMC swung into action and circulated a few comments from its list of pro-GM rent-a-quote scientists. The comments were inaccurate, misleading and borderline scurrilous; they were almost certainly written without the research paper being studied or even read properly, but such is the sway the SMC holds over our not so intrepid journalist corps that Reuters, the BBC, The Telegraph and Financial Times carried them as if they were biblical tablets. In most cases they were given as much space as the research itself.

This abandonment of journalistic standards was repeated across the internet and what is a very important issue, very much in the public interest and to be treated seriously and intelligently, was shamefully obscured.

The science correspondent of one of the newspapers that declined to carry the story has since been critical of the way the researchers and their supporting organisations handled the media. There might be some merit in this view and the research paper itself is not as accessible in some places as one would wish. However, he far too readily dismissed the status of the research instead of asking questions of the research team or their representatives.

Wanted: an engaged and unbiased media

Some journalists are wary of the SMC and they also tread carefully around anti-GM campaigning groups, but too many of them have abandoned even the pretence of serious enquiry. They swallow SMC briefings, press releases from government, industry and research establishment, they don’t ask questions and they fail to see the wider context of GM technology.

There is a growing culture of fear in the scientific community of raising concerns about the technology. A number of scientists are becoming uneasy but fear of damaging their career prospects, peer pressure or in some cases straight forward intimidation prevents them saying anything. In the absence of a questioning media, there is no outlet for these concerns.

As Pete Riley of GM Freeze says:

“It is vital that the BBC and other media report research findings and their context accurately regardless of whether they are palatable to the companies who make the products or the regulators who have to approve them. Scientists need to be encouraged to express their concerns about products and technologies without fear of putting their careers in jeopardy”.

An intelligent, questioning, independently minded and focussed media is vital to the well-being of a healthy, democratic society. Not for the first time in relation to genetic engineering it went AWOL this week.
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2.Has BBC reporting effectively limited the damage done to the current corporate–political drive to promote GM crops in Britain?
Political Cleanup, September 21 2012
http://political-cleanup.org/?p=5934

A formal complaint has been made about the BBC's coverage of the recently reported peer-reviewed research published in the scientific journal Food and Chemical Toxicology – "an "expert furore" smokescreen . . . Dr Brian John wrote:

"The BBC should have accorded this new Seralini study (in a top peer-reviewed American journal) great respect, instead of which it was buried, with no news coverage, and only a biased piece by Jonathan Amos put on the BBC web site.

"Amos's article was lazy and unbalanced, flagging up the scientific furore” angle and effectively demeaning both the article and its authors — under the clear direction of the Science Media Centre (Ed: which "promotes the voices, stories and views of the scientific community to the national news media"). The SMC "briefing" with comments from selected "experts" was widely circulated, and heavily used by Reuters, Press Association and many others – with what intention?

Two of Amos' shortcomings listed by Dr John:

He cited the views of unnamed "independent scientists" and "other researchers" – very bad practice: "But independent scientists criticised the work for its statistical methods and for using the wrong type of rat".

He quoted as an authority Moloney, a scientist who actually does no animal feeding experiments.

Another person asked Jonathon Amos for the name of the independent who said that the “wrong type of rats” had been used, but was not given an answer to that question. Is the independent authority Anthony Trewavas, Professor of Cell Biology, University of Edinburgh? He is widely reported to have said, elsewhere:

"The control group is inadequate to make any deduction. Only 10 rodents so far as I can see and some of these develop tumours. Until you know the degree of variation in 90 or 180 (divided into groups of ten) control rodents these results are of no value.

"These figures for normal appearance of tumours in these rodent lines are surely available and using a line which is very susceptible to tumours can easily bias any result. To be frank it looks like random variation to me in a rodent line likely to develop tumours anyway.”
Professor Anthony Trewavas

A search suggests that Prof. Trewavas, like ABC's GM industry-affiliated Dr. Julian Little, appears to be one of the combine of vested interests very actively seeking to promote GM crops in this country:

Prof.Trewavas played a leading role in Nature's unprecedented withdrawal of a published paper on GM maize in November 2001.

In October 2001 he was named in the High Court in London as the source of a letter making libellous allegations against Lord Melchett and Greenpeace in relation to organic farming and GM foods. Greenpeace wins damages over professor's 'unfounded' allegations. He denied responsibility for the libel letter published under his name but admitted sending the material to, amongst others, a newspaper editor and a PR operative with this intent.

Investigative site Powerbase quotes many emotive outbursts against opponents of GM and organic farming but the real substantiation of Trewavas' interest lies in his memberships of:

*the John Innes Centre,
*the government's Advisory Committee on Genetic Modification,
*the Governing Council of the Scientific Alliance advisory board ('boosting GM'), set up by the lobby firm Foresight Communications, amongst others.

Finally, another tactic used to cover tracks?

A check on links used found that many were obsolete; is the widespread revamping of some government and commercial websites a device so that many offering sensitive information cannot be opened and the evidence accessed?
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3.Who is Séralini?
Extracted from: Multiple tumours found in rats fed on Monsanto's GM corn
Pat Thomas
NYR Natural News, 19 September 2012
http://www.nyrnaturalnews.com/food/2012/09/multiple-tumours-found-in-rats-fed-on-monsantos-gm-corn/

Gilles Eric Séralini has worked tirelessly to expose the health hazards of Monsanto's GM maize varieties, its herbicide Roundup, and the inadequacies of the EU regulatory system for GMOs and pesticides.

In 2005 he reported that human placenta cells were very sensitive to the herbicide Roundup, even at doses much lower than those used in agriculture. Like other scientists before him he was severely criticised by the GM establishment and his work and professional reputation pilloried in the media, which accused him of being more of an ecological fundamentalist than a serious scientist.

The main complaint of the pro-GM brigade was that laboratory studies using cells prove little and that only feeding studies using animals or humans were worth paying attention to.

It's an interesting argument given that most of the medicines we take today, and indeed much of the 'safety' of GM, as defined by the biotech companies that produce it, depends on laboratory studies on cell cultures. Indeed cell culture studies are seen as a first step in any scientific process. Should such studies turn up meaningful data, the next step is to see if the effects can be replicated in lab animals or humans.

It is also a not entirely unpredictable irony that early responders to this current study have moved their own goal posts, protesting that animal studies aren't predictive of human risk. Though again, if this is the case, one could question the basis on which almost every drug currently in use has been passed by government regulators.

A year earlier, in 2004 Séralini, was on the committee that reviewed MON 863 for the French government.

Monsanto sought approval in Europe to introduce a rootworm resistant MON 863 maize. Critics argued that Monsanto's data was biased and incomplete and that regulatory bodies had been unduly influenced by biotech companies. The GMO Panel of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) stated that it had no reservations about approving MON863.

And yet, contained in the report were references to data that Monsanto provided, which suggested changes in some blood cell parameters and in kidney weights of rats that were tested, though these studies were not publicly available.

Gagged

As a condition of the peer review process, Monsanto placed a gagging order on the studies, preventing reviewers from disclosing their details. One of these reviewers was Dr Arpad Pusztai whose own animal feeding studies had previously shown major damage to the gut walls of animals fed GM potatoes.

Environmental group Greenpeace sued for release of data that Monsanto had locked away. A German court eventually ordered its release in June 2005.

With the gagging order lifted Séralini and his team, were able to fully review the data. His reanalysis of a Monsanto feeding trial, which was eventually published in 2007 showed serious damage to the liver and kindeys of laboratory animals and raise serious questions about the regulatory process for GM.

At the time Professor Seralini commented: "These revelations are profoundly disturbing from a health point of view. They are certainly sufficient to require new and more carefully conducted feeding studies and an immediate ban from human or animal consumption of GM maize MON 863 and all its hybrids. This maize cannot now be considered safe to eat. We are now calling urgently for a moratorium on other approved GMOs while the efficacy of current health testing methods is reassessed."

Libelled

In 2010 Séralini sued the French Association for Plant Biotechnology (AFBV) for libel following a smear campaign which he alleged began with that organisation and which had damaged his reputation, reducing his opportunities for work and his chances of getting funding for his research. In January 2011 he won his case.

That same year Séralini and colleagues reviewed 19 animal based studies, some of which showed that consuming genetically modified corn or soybeans led to organ disruptions, with male kidneys responding the worst.

A number of male rats who were fed Monsanto's MON 863 corn developed smaller kidneys with significant inflammation among other markers of disruptive kidney filtration and function problems. Some animals experienced changes in metabolic rates in the liver. Female genital cancers increased in the second generation, and some of the animals who were fed genetically modified organisms had altered body weights in at least one gender, which is considered to be a very strong predictor of side effects displaying in various organs related to toxins in the diet.

Earlier this year Séralini and his colleagues announced the results of another laboratory study which examined the effects of two Bt toxins (in the presence and absence of the herbicide Roundup) on cultured embryonic kidney cells. The results suggested the GM toxins could cause serious damage to kidneys.