University of Guelph fights Suzuki criticism (26/4/2006)

There are complaints in the articles below that the criticism that the University of Guelph is "in bed with the chemical industry" is too general. If you want specifics on what's been going on at Guelph, then check out this profile of Doug Powell from the Dept. of Plant Agriculture

and the article GM PROPAGANDA LAB


1.University fights Suzuki criticism
Guelph Mercury, April 26, 2006
[url at end]

Environmentalist David Suzuki has said University of Guelph faculty are "in bed with the chemical industry." But a plant agriculture professor says that view is naive.

"It's fundamentally wrong," said Clarence Swanton about what Suzuki said during a recent interview with the Mercury. "Working with the industry, we can make advancements of how technology is introduced and how it's used in the marketplace."

In an interview last week just before he flew out from Vancouver on his book tour, Suzuki criticized the University of Guelph's agriculture department, saying it strongly supports industrial-type agriculture, with its reliance on chemicals and genetically modified organisms.

"I've been stunned to find myself arguing with a lot of faculty," he said. "It's clear that Guelph is in bed with the chemical industry."

Suzuki said he was "hammered" by Guelph's agriculture faculty for a 1989 TV episode on organic farming.

"It's obvious they're getting grants from the chemical industry and they see the world differently from the way I see it as an environmentalist," he said.

University president Alastair Summerlee said he was disappointed Suzuki focused on such an old reaction from university faculty.

"It's very important to focus on what we're doing now and the reputation we have now," Summerlee said.

U of G was the first university in Canada to offer a major in organic agriculture and, in the last five years, funding from private sources toward research at the university has dropped from 19 per cent to 13 per cent, Summerlee said.

Summerlee said the university does a variety of research, including studies of genetically modified organisms, chemicals and pesticides as well as organics.

Swanton, who works with biotechnology products and chemicals, added the technology owned by industry will be created "with or without the university and with or without David Suzuki" so it's important there be a public voice, such as the university, to look at the research in an objective way.

Suzuki was making generalizations about the biotechnology industry, Swanton said. But there are advantages to that industry, he added.

For example, there are huge benefits to be had from using crops to produce structural materials, Swanton said.

Danny Rinker, an associate professor in plant agriculture, said he evaluates fungicides and insecticides for chemical companies, but he approaches that work as a researcher.

"There are no strings attached," he said. "As a researcher, I try to stay at arm's-length."

Rinker performs tests needed to register products for use in Canada. His aim isn't to generate data to appease companies, he said.

"I'm far from being in bed with the chemical industry."

[email protected]
url: http://www.guelphmercury.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=mercury/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1146049086652&call_pageid=1050067726078&col=1050421501457


2.Suzuki's criticism is too general
Guelph Mercury, Apr 26, 2006
[url at end]

David Suzuki is not a man to shy away from controversy. He's been known to speak out against polluters and last year criticized the federal government's One Tonne Challenge, a program meant to get every Canadian reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. At that time, he dismissed the program and its marketing as a public-relations nightmare, and said people should focus more on increases in asthma and cancer rates, and how those are linked to the number of vehicles on the road. Now he's again criticizing privately-funded research on genetic modification at the University of Guelph. They are criticisms that are too vague and ones that do nothing but impact on and bring down the reputation of all professors at the university.

During a recent interview with the Mercury, Suzuki referred to the U of G as being "in bed with the chemical industry." He went on to say that professors in the agriculture department "are strong proponents of the use of chemicals in agriculture and genetically-modified organisms." It's not the first time. He spoke out about the same issue in front of an audience of 1,000 at the U of G in 2003, saying "Your faculty are ardent, ardent backers of GMOs and (genetic) engineering." Then, in front of 500 people at the 2004 National Farmers Union annual meeting in Saskatoon, the environmentalist said university professors are selling out to corporate interests.

It is no secret that research into genetic engineering does take place at the University of Guelph. But it is also no secret that after years of trying, the university was the first in Canada to launch an organic farming major. In addition, the Guelph Organic Conference celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, drawing upwards of 1,600 people over four days.

As with research at any university, corporate backers do fund some of the work of professors. Suzuki's statements, however, do not speak to the research of specific instructors, but point to the department as a whole as being "in bed with the chemical industry." Corporate funding is a tricky subject at any school, and the need for research to be seen as transparent and accountable is key, that's why all schools and all faculties are b

Go to a Print friendly Page

Email this Article to a Friend

Back to the Archive