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Life Sciences® spreading falsehoods thicker & faster


Robt Mann <[log in to unmask]>


Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>


Thu, 13 Nov 2003 19:50:28 +1200





text/plain (264 lines)

NZ "Life Sciences" Network posting

New Zealand  News  > GE witch hunts - Lance Kennedy
10 November 2003

Witch-hunts usually target people, Lance Kennedy writes.  But in recent years
one of the most successful witch-hunts targeted an innocent technology.

It all began in 1997 with a piece of incredibly shoddy science.

        <  LK omits to mention that this work was pubd in _The Lancet_.

  A researcher

        < one of the world's leading experts on testing foods

fed raw genetically modified potatoes to lab rats and notice they became

        < they were not only raw  -  cooked were also tested.  LK has made
no attempt to summarize the Lancet paper.

He passed the results on to the world's media and what followed was a frenzy
with Armageddon-like declarations.

        < actually, Pusztai's mention of his results was largely ignored at
the time by the media.  And he didn't "pass the results on the the world's
media", but made only one brief mention on one TV programme.  The facts of
the case have been widely pubd.

On the back of this free publicity the anti-GM lobby launched their crusade.

        <  there were, and are even more now, many additional bases for
advocacy of testing GM foods.

Six months later two findings were ignored.  The first was that the GM
potatoes were harmless.

        < false

  All raw potatoes, GM or not, are toxic to rats.

        < also false; rats generally thrive OK on raw (or cooked) potatoes.

The second was that an anti-GM crusade was an ideal way to arouse public
fear and paranoia.  Membership in anti-GM lobby groups was up and so was fund
Some of the larger groups, over six years, increased their earnings from
under $50 million to over $150 million US per year.

        < I have no idea where such figures come from, but judging by the
lurid falsehoods with which LK is so lavish, he is most likely making these
        < The idea that any of those working for control of GM have got
much money from it is without foundation to the best of my knowledge.
Those I know work for little or nothing.

Anti-GM hysteria was very profitable.  These groups had vast amounts of money
under their control and that meant increased power.
Even when the scientific claims that launched the crusade were found lacking
the campaigns continued.  Today they rely upon lies, wild speculation and
emotionalistic propaganda.

        < this is a classic of the v important human characteristic
(recognised if under-rated by Freud)  PROJECTION.

If we discard the red herrings that are thrown out we are left with two
important issues surrounding the use of genetically modified crops and
The first question: Is it safe?
The second: Is it useful?
For all government approved GM crops and foods the safety issue is clear.

They are totally safe.

        < not one for moderation, is he?

  The list of scientific, extra-governmental bodies
that have researched and approved GM foods is almost endless: the World
Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the United
Nations Food Program, the British Royal Society, the French Academy of
Science and Medicine and many more.
When it comes to safety GM foods are the most studied foods we eat.  Just in
the United States alone each GM crop or food undergoes about 1,000
laboratory and field tests.

        < This may sound impressive, but even if it were factual (which I
would not accept from LK, in view of his extensive errors elsewhere in this
propaganda) it would say nothing about whether the crucial tests have been
done.  As Pusztai emphasizes, few feeding tests have been done, even on

So far over 2 billion people have eaten GM foods for over a decade and there
is not one single scientifically confirmed case of any harm, no matter how
slight, arising from the genetic modification of these foods.

        < It would be misleading to exclude food supplements from such a
statement.  Indeed, the Showa Denko GM-tryptophan
Are they useful?  Absolutely.

        < not even moderately?
        < in fact, hardly at all.

GM sweet potatoes in Africa are immune to a devastating disease that often
kills 100 percent of vital food crops.

        < oh really?  Who will give us a reliable summary of the facts on this?

The inventor, Dr. Florence Wambugu says this will feed an extra ten million
starving Africans.

        < how will they afford it (poverty being the main reason why the
present surplus of food is not reaching the starving Africans) ?

The most used GM crop is a herbicide resistant soya bean.  Using it allows
no-till agriculture that saves one billion tonnes of topsoil from erosion
each year in the United States alone.

        < to what extent Is RR® soy actually grown by no-till methods?

GM corn is cultivated without the use insecticides

        < the lack of proof-reading is unimpressive

 and reduces the amount of
toxic pesticides by 5,000 tonnes per year.  That figure is increasing.

        < Is that so?
        < Why not mention the *increase* in herbicide use on RR® crops?

Golden rice is a GM variety with extra vitamin A.  It has the potential to
save hundreds of thousands of children from going blind.

        < crap.  Its content of pro-vitA is too low to make much difference
at any feasible rice-ingestion rate.  And far better ways of getting vitA,
along with many other nutrients e.g folate, are known.

Anti-GM witch-hunters are causing enormous human suffering.

        < look who's talking about "fear & paranoia".

In Zambia, where 3 million people are starving, the United States offered
food aid in the form of corn that contained some GM varieties.

        < since millions of tons formerly exported to Europe were now
rejected, it was extremely predictable that the USA govt would try to dump
the suspect stockpile on the starving.

Americans have been eaten those varieties for years with no harm.

        < this cannot be proven, since no studies have been done to compare
the health of the dupes with that of otherwise similar populations not
eating GMF.

 But the
anti-GM lobby got to the Zambian government with a staggering
lie: GM corn is toxic.

        < who said that?  All I heard was that it was untested and
therefore not proven safe.  The issue of *burden of proof* is so neglected

In the Philippines 30 percent of children suffer from vitamin
A deficiency.  Golden rice, which was to be released there, was stopped by
anti-GM lobbyists.

        < Since only a handful of this rice existed when it was exposed as
containing near-negligible pro-vitA, this is obviously bullshit.

They claimed it could cause impotency or make one's hair fall out.

        < I stand to be corrected, but I think these are also fabrications
by LK.  I never came across any such suggestions about 'golden' rice.

Greenpeace was especially vitriolic in it's attack.

        < its, he means

 Some proponents suspect
this is because Golden rice is especially useful and if it were seen to have
dramatic benefits it would undermine the entire anti-GM crusade.

        < *if* this rice had indeed proven useful, which is not the case,
that conclusion would apply to that 'event' only.  All other GMF would
remain to be appraised.

What of the future?
Experience with past witch-hunts suggests that hysteria eventually reaches a
peak.  And it appears the hysteria against GM is peaking.

        < wishful thinking  -  opposition is increasing, despite the
failure of the media to tell the main facts about GM

From now on we can expect to see the rational elements growing stronger

        < if so, that will increase the resistance to GM crops

 till the anti-GM lobby is discredited.
Apart from a few die-hards the campaign will cease.

        < sounds rather like Hinkler's wild predictions as the allied
armies advanced thru France, Italy, Hungary etc

Much damage has already been done and the lives of thousands have been lost
by these ill advised attacks.

        < no basis has been suggested for this wild claim.  Even the
pro-nookuluh enthusiasts were rarely this reckless with the truth.

But again if history is an indication the witch-hunters will simply move on
to new hysteria.  Already some of the anti-GM crowd are gearing up to launch
a campaign to oppose the fledgling science of nanotechnology.  Nonsense never

        < actually, 'nanotek' deserves v sceptical appraisal  -  and for
many of the same reasons why GM should be much more conservatively

Lance Kennedy, B.Sc., is the author of the recently published book Ecomyth.
This opinion piece is provided as a public® service by the Institute for
Liberal© Values.
For more information contact [log in to unmask]

        < charming sobriquet !   Neither Juan nor Eva would be admired by
most decent folk.

        < this is one of the most inaccurate pieces of propaganda I've ever


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