Meacher to Attend Launch of Independent Science Panel/'Running Priest' joins fast (8/5/2003)

8 May 2003

Meacher to Attend Launch of Independent Science Panel/'Running Priest' joins fast

*Michael Meacher to Attend Launch of Independent Science Panel
*'Running Priest' joins fast
Michael Meacher to Attend Launch
Press Release
Embargoed until May 10
Independent Science Panel for a GM-Free Sustainable World
In a surprising move, dozens of prominent scientists have joined forces to form an Independent Science Panel (ISP) on GM, to counteract what they see to be a concerted campaign by the government and the scientific establishment in the UK to promote GM under the guise of 'sound' science.

'This amounts to open scientific rebellion, possibly unprecedented in history,' says Mae-Wan Ho, Director of the Institute of Science in Society, who initiated the move, and confessed to having been taken by surprise, and delighted, by the positive response of the scientists contacted.  

Many of the scientists have been feeling frustrated at the lack of open public debate on a whole range of scientific and other issues. The 'discussion meetings' organised by the government are invariably stacked with pro-GM scientists hyping the potential benefits of GM, and giving the public bland assurances that 'there is no evidence of harm'.

It will all change now.

At a special launching conference on May 10 in London, the ISP will release their report, The Case for A GM-Free Sustainable World, the strongest, most complete dossier of evidence ever put together to support their call for a ban on GM crops and widespread adoption of organic sustainable agriculture. This is timed to kick off the GM national debate in the UK, and to input into the Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology in Sacramento, California in June. The report has already attracted considerable international attention.

Environment Minister Michael Meacher says he will be attending the launch.

 'We'll give them a case to answer,' says Brian John, geomorphologist and environment scientist, who has been working closely with the GM Free Cymru campaign. 'Those of us who have looked into the science of GM crops and foods from a community or consumer perspective have been appalled at the apparent abandonment of the precautionary principle and at the control exerted over the scientific agenda by the biotechnology multinationals.'

The Report will be sent to the president of the Philippines together with a letter in support of one of the ISP members, Roberto Verzola, Secretary-General of the Philippine Greens, who has initiated an indefinite hunger strike, to protest his government’s approval of Monsanto’s Bt maize, now in its 15th day. The Panel includes Britain’s best-loved botanist, broadcaster, writer and tireless campaigner for Mother Earth, David Bellamy OBE, who will lead the launch of the ISP.  Other speakers include Stanley Ewen, Consultant Histopathologist, at Grampian University Hospitals Trust; Malcolm Hooper, Emeritus Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, University of Sunderland; Vyvyan Howard, toxipathologist, University of Liverpool; Arpad Pusztai, formerly senior scientist at Rowett Institute, Scotland, and Gundula Azeez, Policy Manager, Soil Association.

For further details contact Lim Li Ching   [email protected]

[email protected]  tel: 44-(0)20-8643-0681, or Mae-Wan Ho
[email protected]    [email protected]  tel: 44 (0)20-7272-5636.
'Running Priest' joins fast - excerpt
Philippine Daily Inquirer May 6, 2003

THERE is no stopping the Department of Agriculture from propagating the genetically modified Bacillus thuringensis (Bt) corn. DA officials led by Secretary Luis P. Lorenzo Jr. yesterday said no scientific evidence has been found to justify a moratorium on the planting and sale of the controversial crop throughout the country, as non-government organizations (NGOs) led by Greenpeace International have been demanding. In a press briefing, Lorenzo said the DA would continue to hold dialogues with the NGOs, but stressed that the agency should not be held accountable for the lives of protesters. Lorenzo was referring to four environmentalists now on their 15th day of a hunger strike in front of the DA building. "I respect their principles," he said, "but in previous dialogues, I reminded them that maybe this wasn't something they should have to die for."

 The hunger strikers will be joined tomorrow by Fr. Robert Reyes, the "running priest."

Reyes, known for taking up crusades in his running shoes, said he would join the protest fast at 11 a.m. after a "BT run" or "Bayan Takbo Against Bt corn" around the Quezon Memorial Circle. "I shall offer my hunger as a prayer for the enlightenment of those in power," Reyes said in a statement released during a news conference yesterday at the hunger strike encampment. The four hunger strikers-Obet Verzola, Mark Cervantes, Arma Bertuso and Luisita Esmao-vowed to continue their fast until Lorenzo, or President Macapagal-Arroyo, declares the moratorium that they are seeking. Versola, the eldest striker at 40, was too weak to stand and face the media yesterday. But he had his statement read out by Bertuso, in which he said he was making "a final stand against a wrong." He also issued a waiver clearing his colleagues of any responsibility for the consequences of his action. Also set to join the fast was Ann Larracas of Philippine Greens, Versola's organization. Bt corn is being marketed under the brand name YieldGard by Monsanto, a United States-based pesticide company. The crop produces a naturally occurring Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) protein that makes it high-yielding and pest-resistant. Upon the recommendation of the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP), the DA's Bureau of Plant Industry last year approved YieldGard's commercialization.

Dr. Oscar Zamora, a professor of environmental science at the University of the Philippines in Los Banos Laguna, said the introduction of genetically engineered (GE) crops into the country was still largely untested and could adversely affect the environment and agriculture.

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