Soil Association condemns Canadian attack on UK and Irish free speech (7/9/2007)

NOTE: This GM-free Ireland Network newsflash contains two powerful letters of protest from the Soil Association - one to the High Commissioner for Canada.

ISIS - the Institute of Science in Society - are also asking scientists and others to protest to Hon.Gerry Ritz, Minister Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada [email protected] and Hon. Maxime Bernier [email protected] Minister of Foreign Affairs.

For more on the concerns over this research

Date: Thu, 6 Sep 2007
Subject: Canadian attack on UK and Irish free speech re GM food
From: "GM-free Ireland Network"
[email protected]

Mr James Wright
High Commissioner for Canada
MacDonald House
1 Grosvenor Square
London W1K 4AB

4 September 2007

I am writing on behalf of the Soil Association to ask you to ensure that your Government takes action against one of your employees, Shane Morris, who is trying to defend an extraordinarily misleading scientific paper by threatening free speech in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

In brief, a paper published by Doug Powell, University of Guelph, and others [1], claims to have shown that consumers prefer GM to non-GM corn, given a free choice. What the paper failed to disclose was that the bin of sweetcorn that was non-GM had a sign beside it saying "Would you eat wormy sweetcorn?", while the bin of GM corn had a sign above it saying "Here's what went into producing quality sweetcorn". These signs were witnessed and photographed by a reporter from the Toronto Star, who noted that labelling one lot of sweetcorn "wormy" and the other lot "quality" hardly provided a neutral choice for consumers.

The paper by Jeff Wilson, Doug Powell, Katija Blaine and Shane Morris published in the British Food Journal claimed that the researchers took great trouble not to bias consumer choice. No mention was made of the "wormy" and "quality" signs, nor indeed a number of pro-GM fact sheets which were made available to consumers during the experiment.

I'm sure you will agree that this is a disgrace, and the fact that one of the scientists works for the Canadian Government must give you great cause for concern. I am sure the Canadian Government has no wish to be associated with deliberately misleading scientific papers, and I look forward to the Canadian Government disassociating itself from this extraordinary paper.

Despite calls from leading scientists and others, the British Food Journal has so far failed to withdraw this paper, and I hope the Canadian Government will now encourage them to do so.

Finally, presumably in an effort to stop news of this unscientific and unprofessional behaviour gaining wider currency, your Government's employee, Mr Morris, has tried to close down one of the most respected websites dealing with information about GM, farming and food (GM Watch) and also has issued legal threats against a respected organisation in Ireland, GM Free Ireland. You will no doubt be aware that the call to make Ireland GM free has the support of the Irish Government, and I hope the Canadian Government will immediately disassociate from attempts by one of their employees to undermine the wishes of a democratically elected government.

I am copying this to His Excellency The Irish Ambassador.

Peter Melchett
Policy Director
The Soil Association
South Plaza, Marlborough Street,
Bristol BS1 3NX, UK

[1. Powell DA, Blaine K, Morris S and Wilson J. Agronomic and consumer considerations for Bt and conventional sweet-corn. British Food Journal 2003, 105 (10), 700-713]



Professor Chris Griffith
Editor of the British Food Journal
Head, Food Research and Consultancy Unit
University of Wales Institute
Llandaff Campus, Western Avenue
Cardiff CF5 2YB

4 September 2007

I have always found it incomprehensible that you failed to withdraw the paper by Powell, Blaine, Morris and Wilson [1] about consumers buying GM and non-GM maize in Canada, once you learnt that the research had been misleadingly reported. I know that at the time you published letters criticising and defending the research, and I have read that you published an 'editor's note' which said that "a common misconception is that science and research are about facts". I have to say I find that an extraordinary statement, if by it you mean to imply that it's perfectly acceptable for scientific papers that you publish to report as facts things that are not true. In this case, the inclusion of the signs referring to "wormy" and "quality" above the two samples of sweetcorn is so significant that omitting any reference to them in the paper not only means that the paper is no longer factually accurate, but that it is deliberately misleading.

I suppose you may have felt this extraordinarily unsavoury episode could be forgotten, but unfortunately one of the authors of the paper is now trying to suppress accurate reporting of what happened in both the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

It seems to me this is an inevitable consequence of your willingness, through your journal, to support this misleading paper. Will you now withdraw it?

Peter Melchett
Policy Director
The Soil Association
South Plaza, Marlborough Street,
Bristol BS1 3NX, UK

[1. Powell DA, Blaine K, Morris S and Wilson J. Agronomic and consumer considerations for Bt and conventional sweet-corn. British Food Journal 2003, 105 (10), 700-713]


PROPAGANDA, FRAUD AND LIBEL - a response (part 4)

GM Watch, 5 September 2007.

This is the fourth part of our response to an article attacking GM Watch published on AgBioView by its "guest editor", Andrew Apel.

In Propaganda, Fraud and Libel, Andrew Ape

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