Truth suffocator moderating new "science-based" GM website (15/12/2005)


CS Prakash's AgBioView list is promoting a website called "Gene Genie" - "an Australian online resource" created to provide "science-based information about GM food and crops".

Gene Genie is moderated by Greg Bodulovic and Peta Holmes. Bodulovic is the author of an article prominently promoted on the Gene Genie website: "Is the European Attitude to GM Products Suffocating African Development?"

As we previously noted, Bodulovic's article is marked not just by serious factual inaccuracies and the cherry-picking of questionable source material, but by the citing of sources that turn out not to support the author's claims!

Who better than Bodulovic, then, to run a website which says it "aims to deal with the myths about GM food and crops and to provide the facts to enable users to form an unbiased, informed view on the issue."

Analysis by Jonathan Matthews, GM Watch (shortened version - from WEEKLY WATCH 154)

There's something about the GM food aid issue that seems to bring out the worst in biotech proponents. The most recent example crops up in Functional Plant Biology, described by its publisher as a "highly cited international journal" which "publishes research of international importance and relevance".

In December, Functional Plant Biology published a piece entitled "Is the European Attitude to GM Products Suffocating African Development?" This article and its abstract have been widely circulated via pro-GM lists and industry websites.

The article claims to examine "the background and reasons behind the condemnation of GM crops by southern African nations", and to consider whether "the lack of support of agricultural biotechnology by European nations has contributed to this situation".

Its author, Greg Bodulovic, concludes that it has. He argues that the rejection of GM crops by countries like Zambia stemmed essentially from, on the one hand, disinformation put into circulation by European NGOs and, on the other, from concerns about loss of access to European markets. Bodulovic also blames disinformation for the fact that European markets became closed to GM foods in the first place.

It is, therefore, ironic that this article, which identifies disinformation as a key driving force behind GM rejection in both Africa and Europe, is itself a good example of what Bodulovic complains about!

For instance, Bodulovic traces opposition to GMOs within the EU back to European media coverage of the research findings of Pusztai and Ewen, which showed that rats suffered adverse effects from consuming GM potatoes. According to Bodulovic, "These adverse effects were unable to be repeated, despite numerous attempts (Appell 2003)". When, however, one follows up Bodulovic's source for this (Appell 2003), it turns out to be a Wired News article!

Still more bizarrely, the Wired News piece has not a word to say about Pusztai and Ewen's research, let alone about the claimed multiple attempts at replication that failed. Bodulovic appears to have cited a source that simply bears no reference to his claim. ...

When it comes to considering why the Zambians rejected GM food aid, this cavalier approach to the facts seems less incidental than wilful. While Bodulovic acknowledges that the decision not to accept GM food aid was made only after a delegation of Zambian scientists had obtained information and advice from various experts in Europe and the United States, he only lists "Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and several other groups fundamentally opposed to agricultural biology (Wilson 2002)"...

[Bodulovic argues that in the light of the 'unsubstantiated and clearly misleading information' presented to the delegation, 'it is unsurprising that the delegation's report took a negative view of agricultural biotechnology'.]

There are a number of problems with this. The first and most obvious is that the Zambian delegation took advice from a range of interested parties, including pro-GM scientists, regulators and other experts. So just why does Bodulovic only list "groups fundamentally opposed to agricultural biology (Wilson 2002)"?

Bodulovic's source (Wilson 2002) is this time a piece in the Daily Telegraph, a right-wing British newspaper with a strongly pro-GM editorial outlook that is clearly reflected in the article. Interestingly, though, even this press piece turns out to be less cavalier with the facts than Bodulovic. The article mentions, for instance, that the Zambian delegation took advice from Prof David KIng, the Chief Scientific Advisor to the British government, as well as from the government's pro-GM Department for International Development (DfID)...

The Telegraph piece also notes that the leader of the Zambian delegation - Dr Mwananyanda Lewanika, a biochemist at Zambia's National Institute for Science and Technology - had 2 science degrees from American universites and had spent five years specialising in biosafety. Given this, it is reasonable to ask why Bodulovic assumes that it is 'unsurprising' that the conclusions of this delegation of Zambian experts would be determined by 'unsubstantiated and clearly misleading information'.

Bodulovic's attitude is something more than just patronising. The sub-text here is straightforward racism: it would be unsurprising if a delegation of African scientists were to be taken in by unsubstantiated and misleading information...

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the publication of Bodulovic's piece in Functional Plant Biology is to be found in the acknowledgements. Here Bodulovic thanks Professor Barry Rolfe, Professor John Gibson, Dr Michael Djordjevic, Dr Jeremy Weinman and Dr Charles Hocart for "their critical readings of the manuscript". He also expresses thanks for his PhD scholarship.

Are we really to believe that this article, apparently connected to a doctoral thesis, and submitted to Functional Plant Biology in early March and only accepted five months later in August 2005, was really subjected to months of critical

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