"Personally, I distrust everything that comes from NGIN" Alex Avery, Hudson Institute, 18 Jan 2001
Zut alors! Now you can see my pants once more, here are ze January- February PANTS ON FIRE nominations:
1. The UK's Royal Society who, it turns out, has received millions from major corporations, including those (eg RhÃ´ne Poulenc and Glaxo-Welcome) with major biotech interests [see: http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/rsfunding.htm]
2. Lord Haskins, chair of Northern Foods plc and Blair advisor, who claims that spurious media scare stories have created a climate "where scientific progress, notably with GM food, is being denied by affluent, educated middle class pressure groups", thus threatening billions of poor people around the world. "Let the heir to the throne enjoy his excellent if somewhat risky organic food [...] let the poor, starving people of the world have access to safe, affordable food - which GM food will probably offer them." [http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/269.htm]
3. Prof Philip Stott, chair of the upcoming US-embassy supported 'Seeds of Opportunity' conference, who sees GE as "an advance vital for human development" and indeed, "essential for human survival", being the "finest of all human adaptations", the result of all which is: "We are truly standing on a great peak and a new country lies at our feet."
Prof Stott also offers some biotech PG Tips: "Our prime task is surely to ensure that we reap the benefits of this finest of all human adaptations whilst minimizing the risks. Boiling a kettle is a dangerous task; yet it produces that refreshing cup of tea. Biotechnology is no different." [http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/319.htm] For more Stott rot, see below.
So zere you have it. Send me your votes... and mind zat kettle!
Jean de Bris, Pants on Fire Chief
Smoking Trozerz (& Steaming Pants!) International
Prof Philip Stott claims to expose the 'religious' zeal and guilt that underlies 'eco-hype'. With this in mind, at the top of the homepage of his 'Pro biotech' website, Stott quotes Dr Samual Johnson's admonition: "Clear your mind of cant."
According to Chambers, the word 'cant', along with its general reference to sanctimonious hogwash, includes "affected use of religious phrases". Here's Prof Stott on the human genome project:
'Today, we shall truly ''eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil'' (Genesis 1.17), for two teams of scientists.. have come together to announce the decoding of the alphabet of human life. And ''we shall be as gods".' http://www.bridge.com/bio/biostory.asp?story=bhhvzxk&fixed=yes
Hmm... quite a long way away from Craig Venter's, "We don't know shit about biology". In fact, pure unabashed evangelic bio-hype!
According to a recent Stott letter to the Guardian on climate change, however:
"I am passionate about truth and honesty in science" http://www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,3604,458853,00.html
Yet according to this self-same refuter of pernicous and dishonest mythmaking:
"Swiss researchers who are enhancing rice genetically to provide enough beta-carotene to satisfy the daily requirements for Vitamin A in as little as 300g of cooked rice per day speak movingly of their vision for a better world... As a university scientist, I must defend such progress to the hilt against all the unreason in the world." http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/319.htm
In fact, "Golden rice" not only does not remotely "satisfy the daily requirements for Vitamin A in as little as 300g of cooked rice per day" but, as Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University has pointed out, its benefits remain strictly "theoretical".
So what exactly is it that Stott is defending? Prof Nestle's comments have relevance here too:
"This rice... has become the "poster child" of the food biotechnology industry's extensive public relations campaign to convince the public that the benefits of genetically engineered agricultural products outweigh any safety, environmental, or social risks they might pose" [Genetically Engineered "Golden" Rice is Unlikely to Overcome Vitamin A Deficiency, Letter to the editor in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2001;101 (March):289-290]
And while Prof Stott is all too willing to defend agbiotech's poster child to the hilt, he is not always so generous about scientific endeavour. In the case of Dr Arpad Pusztai for instance, his research is dismissed as:
"The Pusztai potato myth: a risible tale of rodents and a well-known root crop. Here are the facts [link to Royal Society's hatchet job]: The truth about those poor old rats." [http://www.probiotech.fsnet.co.uk/myths.html]
This is, of course, the same passionate truth seeking Prof Stott whose recent Guardian letter (on climate change, where he opposes the consensus) concludes:
"It is surely time in the UK for a more adult scientific openness about the limitations of our current knowledge."
Except in the case of biotech, of course.
No wonder the director of the Environmental Research Foundation, Peter Montague, recently concluded his comments on Stott's defence of GM crops as follows:
"It is evident that Professor Stott has abandoned his role as a serious scholar and has become a cheerleader for the biotech industry."