Pusztai - "We can't ignore GM concerns" (17/8/2005)

1.We can't ignore GM concerns - Pusztai
2.GM is safe and that's a fact - Little and Marantelli

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These exchanges began with Dr Arpad Pusztai's guest editorial in Chemistry & Industry, 'GM fears allayed with transparency' (20 June 2005 - Issue No 12).

EXCERPT from 'GM fears allayed with transparency': "It is... not unreasonable to suggest that it is not only the biotech companies that should carry out the risk or safety assessments of GM crops/foods, but it must also be verified by independent scientists through an open and transparent funding system. The basic rule must be that, because we all eat GM foods, we are all entitled to scrutinise the evidence relating to their safety. Therefore, secrecy is against the public interest and unjustified. Similarly, all ethical concerns raised by GM organisms must be settled inclusively by society."

Bernard Marantelli and Julian Little responded critically to this ('GM is safe and that's a fact' - item 2).

Marantelli works for the PR firm Lexington Communications. He has helped Lexington with its work for the the UK biotechnology-industry lobby group, the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), which Little heads.

The ABC was founded in 2002 by Monsanto along with Bayer CropScience, BASF, Dow Agrosciences, Dupont and Syngenta. Little is employed by Bayer while Marantelli, prior to joining Lexington, worked on PR for Monsanto.

1.We can't ignore GM concerns
Dr Arpad Pusztai
Chemistry & Industry
15 August 2005 - Issue No 16 - Page 15

Arpad Pusztai, a consultant at the Norwegian Institute of Gene Ecology in Tromso, counters Little and Marantelli's claims of GM's safety and calls for openness to end the controversy

'GM is safe and that's a fact,' say Julian Little and Bernard Marantelli of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council. Categorical statements of safety such as this encapsulate why efforts to have meaningful scientific dialogue between GM enthusiasts and sceptics have failed. Nothing can be said to be absolutely safe and safety for GM (or any other) food cannot be guaranteed by anyone.

The concept of safety is defined in the negative and this is how scientists approach the problem. Accordingly, the 1139 pages of the Monsanto-commissioned rat-feeding study with MON 863 maize-based diets has been a commendable attempt to show the regulators that no negative health impacts occur when this GM maize is fed to a mammalian species, and so support the idea of its safety. If consumers or regulators took it for a fact that this GM maize was safe, Monsanto would have never done this study. It is quite a different business that in the opinion of many, including this author, the results, rather than proving the innocuousness of MON 863, revealed possible health problems in the rats that had eaten this GM maize. Therefore, even if the partisan opinion of Little and Marantelli that 'the number of detrimental health impacts attributed to GM crops has remained… zero' were to be true, the Monsanto study has provided evidence that harm can occur with at least this one GM maize crop.

By restricting access to the full 1139-page document, Monsanto raised suspicions that they were trying to hide any potential health risks of this GM maize from independent scrutiny even though they expected European consumers to eat it. Even more worrying is that some of the 25 member states' regulatory committees only received a 19-page summary instead of the full document. They were not provided with descriptions of the feeding experiments, other essential experimental details or the evaluation methods. Without these, they could not fulfil their lawful duties to scrutinise the results.

Before I could provide the German authorities with a commissioned scientific review of the feeding study, I had to sign a confidentiality contract not to publicly release its contents. Monsanto took the German authorities to court for disclosing the study to persons unauthorised by them. Fortunately, the appeal court took the reasonable view that blood parameters and kidney size etc of rats fed on MON 863 diet cannot be regarded as confidential information and ordered the publication of the document. It is therefore difficult to understand how the GM biotechnology industry can claim to foster openness and inclusiveness.

Little and Marantelli's interpretation of the UK Government-initiated investigation into the growing and commercialisation of GM crops, the Science Review Panel's report, the results of the field trials and Cabinet Office views also appear to be at odds with the facts. When it is asserted that 'the genetically modified element (sic!) of GM crops has no environmental impact, and that the herbicide regime… (is) beneficial to wildlife…', this is not only the opposite to the conclusions of the UK investigation, it makes it impossible to have any further discussion.

The biotech industry and their pressure groups must recognise that some of the health and environmental concerns of society are genuine and need to be debated. Rebuffing these attempts by loudly declaring that GM is safe without transparently assessing the risks they represent and ascribing legitimate concerns as NGO-inspired conspiracy is not helpful. The sooner it is realised that openness, transparency and inclusiveness are not only slogans but the best way to solve this GM controversy, the better it will be for us all.

GM is safe and that's a fact
Julian Little and Bernard Marantelli
Chemistry & Industry
04 July 2005 - Issue No 13 - Page 12

It is time to stop the scare-mongering over GM crops after a decade of their safe use and the billionth acre planted globally, argue Julian Little and Bernard Marantelli of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council

The article 'GM fears allayed with transparency' casts a shadow over the crop biotechnology industry by speaking of company secr

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