WEEKLY WATCH number 102 (10/12/2004)

from Claire Robinson, WEEKLY WATCH editor

Dear all

"SCIENCE NOT FOR SALE," read the signs on Thursday at a vibrant rally outside the Chancellor's office at the University of California, Berkeley, following Dr Ignacio Chapela's final lecture.

The Daily Californian reported, "Since Chapela was first denied tenure, hundreds of students, professors and activists have rallied around him and demanded the university reverse the decision."

Berkeley scientist Andrew Gutierrez told the paper, "(Chapela) is incredibly well-respected, both professionally and personally. He had people mesmerized in his last class - they were sitting at the edge of their seats."

Another Berkeley scientist, David Quist commented, "(Chapela's) research resonated truth. This is the kind of science we want to have. This should have been an open and shut case. Instead, they showed him the door."

But the fight for justice in the Chapela case is far from over. (see THE AMERICAS and CAMPAIGNS OF THE WEEK)

Other news this week includes an important International Symposium in Russia, involving all the country's relevant science institutes, which came out strongly against GMOs. Professor Vladimir Kuznetsov, Director of the Institute of Plant Physiology of the Russian Academy of Science warned participants, "scientific knowledge about plant's genome is extremely poor... It is absolutely obvious that long-term research aimed to prove GMOs' biosafety must PRECEDE their commercialization if any." (EUROPE)

Meanwhile, in Australia the lies of GM lobbyists CS Prakash and Florence Wambugu have been exposed in a brilliant parliamentary speech. (AUSTRALASIA)

Finally, please check out CAMPAIGNS OF THE WEEK. There's several very important ones and they're all easy to do.

Claire [email protected]
www.gmwatch.org / www.lobbywatch.org



A paper in Trends in Biotechnology (vol 22, issue 11, Nov 04) concludes that many expectations of medical biotechnology are "wildly optimistic and over-estimate the speed and extent of the impact of the technology... suggesting that the assumptions underpinning much contemporary policy making need to be rethought".

The 'biotech revolution' model of innovation underpins a substantial amount of government health, education, science and regional policy. It has created widespread expectations about the rapid impact of biotech. These expectations are not remotely matched by the reality.

The authors have written elsewhere, "Unrealistic expectations are dangerous as they lead to poor investment decisions, misplaced hope, and distorted priorities, and can distract us from acting on the knowledge we already have about the prevention of illness and disease."


Ian Cohen MP has made a brilliant parliamentary speech in the New South Wales Legislative Council . Cohen exposed the lies spread by AgBioView and CS Prakash, GM PR woman Florence Wambugu, and the deceptive corporate sector.


ON WAMBUGU: Many have bought the feed-the-world myth perpetuated by the GM advocates, but a closer examination reveals that it is a lie. One of the key proponents of this myth... is Monsanto-trained Kenyan scientist Dr Florence Wambugu. She claimed that GM crops were the key to eradicating poverty and hunger in the Third World. She told the New Scientist: "In Africa GM food could almost literally weed out poverty."

In the Nature journal she claimed that GM food could not only solve poverty but also take care of famine and environmental degradation. All of these claims were built on the Monsanto-created GM sweet potato. Wambugu claimed in the world's press that yields of the GE sweet potato, which were trialled in Kenya, were double that of the regular plant, with potatoes bigger and richer in colour. She went even further to claim that the GM sweet potato increased yields from four tonnes per hectare to 10 tonnes. All of this was an outright lie.

When the results of the three-year trial were published in January 2004 they showed that, far from dramatically out-yielding the non-GM sweet potatoes, the exact opposite was the case. The report indicated that during the trials non-transgenic crops used as a control yielded much more tuber compared to the transgenic. The GM crop was also found to be susceptible to viral attack-the very thing that it had been created to resist.

... A successful conventional breeding program in Uganda had produced a new high-yielding variety, which was virus resistant and raised yields by roughly 100 per cent. Yet the GM sweet potato was a total flop.
ON PRAKASH: One of the key advocates of the feed-the-world myth is Professor CS Prakash, who is Director of the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research at the Tuskegee Institute in Texas, and a roving GM ambassador for the US State Department.

He lied to members of the Tanzanian press last summer when he told them that GM "doubles production", while in the Philippines he told a press conference the lie that "most genetically modified crops have longer shelf life".

These lies come packaged with manufactured smears. Prakash told a press conference in Manila that Greenpeace could be getting money for opposing GM crops from "some companies that think their business operations will be greatly affected by widespread use of genetically modified crops". According to the Philippine Star, "Prakash would not say if pesticide companies are financing the operations of Greenpeace".

Professor Prakash poses as a third-world scientist rallying support from fellow academics. He is backed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is a far-right, industry-supported American think tank. One only has to glance at its web site to see how extreme it is. This institute campaigns against environmentalists. It attempts to debunk global warming, opposes controls on smoking, opposes the Kyoto Protocol and believes in complete deregulation of GM crops.

Professor Prakash accuses critics of genetic engineering variously of fascism, communism, imperialism, nihilism, murder, corruption, terrorism, and even genocide - not to mention being worse than Hitler and on a par with the mass murderers who destroyed the World Trade Centre. Professor Prakash has been heavily into dirty tricks campaigns against GM skeptics...
ON THE MINISTER: Imagine if you will the Minister standing in this Chamber 40 years ago strongly defending James Hardie's right to mine asbestos and to build fibro homes all over New South Wales. Imagine him saying that James Hardie was providing much-needed jobs for workers and building cheap and affordable homes for lower-paid people.

Imagine him saying further, "Fibro-using asbestos is a breakthrough technology and you greenies are just Luddites in opposing the use of asbestos." The Minister would have accused us of being anti-business and anti-jobs.


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