How the BMA report was fixed - a GM WATCH expose
Amidst the welter of criticism the Government faced on Tuesday when it announced its decision on GM maize commercialisation, there was one ray of sunshine - media reports of backing for the Government's stance from the British Medical Association (BMA).
One headline even ran "Doctors 100% behind GM decision". The article (see below) reported, "In an apparent U-turn over its policy to GM foods, the British Medical Association said there was no reason not to go ahead with commercial planting of GM maize".Sir David Carter, chairman of the BMA's Board of Science, had reportedly said it was necessary to "move away from the hysteria that has so often been associated with GM foods". Asked if he would be 100% behind a decision to allow GM maize, Sir David said: "I would say so." http://www.femail.co.uk/pages/standard/article.html?in_article_id=209481&in_ page_id=2
The timing of the press conference and Sir David's remarks could not have been more helpful to the Government if it had been planned that way. Yet Sir David's remarks were not only out of line with the BMA's much more cautiously worded report and press release, they were a million miles away from what the BMA last had to say publicly on the issue. Then, in its submission to the Scottish Parliament's health committee back in November 2002, the BMA argued for a moratorium on GM crop trials as a "precautionary measure" to safeguard public health. Its submission said that "insufficient care" had been taken over public health and that the grounds for concern were "serious enough" to justify an immediate end to GM trials. Yet now apparently the BMA regards not just trials but full commercialisation as OK. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/2494267.stm
The BMA's stance in Scotland was completely consistent with the position it adopted in its report on this issue in 1999. It was, however, completely at odds with that of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which had told the committee that there were no grounds for concern. The BMA's position brought an immediate backlash. In a letter to The Times in early December 2002, Sir Peter Lachmann and others strongly attacked the BMA's stance. Lachmann is a controversial figure who was named by The Guardian as having threatened the editor of The Lancet with serious consequences if he published a paper reporting harm to rats fed a GM food.
At the end of January 2003 the BBC's science correspondent Pallab Ghosh, in a report that quoted Sir Peter Lachmann, said that the BMA was going to review its position. Ghosh said this was as a result of lobbying by the pro-GM pressure group Sense About Science. The BBC reported that Ghosh had "discovered that one scientific group, called Sense about Science, has been urging the BMA to review the report. The group say they expect any updated version to 'be less prone to be misinterpreted by pressure groups'." http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2711801.stm
In a submission to the GM science review Lachmann identified Sir David Carter as the man who had made the decision to review the BMA's position. "Just in the last week or two there has been renewed interest in the BMA's 'provisional report on the impact of genetic modification on agriculture, food and health' issued in 1999; and the reported decision of Sir David Carter, the Chairman of their Board of Science, to revisit the topic this year." http://www.gmsciencedebate.org.uk/topics/forum/0057.htm
Sir David is not only a leading member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh but its former Vice President. He is also part of the pro-GM lobby group Sense about Science (chairman: Lord Taverne), whose staff are part of the far right LM network who campaign for no blocks on genetic technologies like GM crops and reproductive cloning. Sir David sits on the lobby group's advisory council along with such well-known GM proponents as Sir Peter Lachmann, Derek Burke, Vivian Moses, Matt Ridley, Roger Turner, Michael Wilson, and Phil Dale.
Also on the Sense about Science advisory panel is Julian Ma,. Ma also signed Lachmann's letter to The Times criticising the BMA. Of the two remaining signatories to that letter, one was Dame Bridget Ogilvie, the Vice Chair of Sense About Science.
The timing of the BMA's press conference yesterday morning was no chance affair. The leaked Cabinet papers revealed the Government planned to use scientists in a spin operation to support its decision. It's now clear how and by whom a key part of that operation was planned and executed.
Doctors 100% behind GM decision
9th March 2004
Doctors have given their backing to the Government's decision to allow commercial cultivation of genetically modified maize. In an apparent U-turn over its policy to GM foods, the British Medical Association said there was no reason not to go ahead with commercial planting of GM maize.
Sir David Carter, chairman of the BMA's Board of Science, said it was necessary to "move away from the hysteria that has so often been associated with GM foods".
Asked if he would be 100% behind a decision to allow GM maize for animal feed, he said: "I would say so."
In 1999 the BMA called for an open-ended moratorium on all commercial planting of GM crops until more was known about their effects on human health.
In an updated report it said that rather than a blanket ban it now wanted individual crops to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Though more research was needed, there appeared to be no evidence that eating GM food had harmful health effects, said the BMA.
This assessment was based on cumulative data from countries such as the United States where the population had been exposed to GM foods for a long time.
Sir David said: "It's no longer sensible to impose a moratorium on all aspects of GM foods and their planting.
"That's not to declare an open season on GM planting. We still feel there are a lot of unanswered questions."