"Italian field trials results suppressed" (25/11/2007)

'Italian field trials results suppressed'

The pro-GM PR lobby likes to accuse critics of GM of 'scaremongering' and of spreading 'baseless conspiracy theories' and other 'misinformation'. They also particulartly like to charge GM critics with seeking to disseminate claims based on non-peer reviewed science. But consider the following from the pro-GM list of Klaus Ammann:

To: klaus.ammann@ips.unibe.ch
Subject: Italian maize field trial with very postitive outcome, held back for political reasons
From: Klaus Ammann <klaus.ammann@ips.unibe.ch>
Date: Tue, 13 Nov 2007 20:15:29 +0100

Friends, good news for the case of the GM crops:
just to go to the main page of PRRI www.pubresreg.org and read about the latest Newsflash

Italian field trial results suppressed_13-11-07
Milan, Italy and Tuskegee, Alabama - via
AgBioView, <

According to the authors of the press release, data from field trials conducted in Italy which compared GM and non-GM maize have been suppressed for two years by government officials and scientist at a public research institution.

the Press conference in Rome was held by Piero Morandini today early afternoon in Rome and the texts are released to anybody who wants to make a newspaper article, no problem.

The 'good news' that Ammann along with Morandini, CS Prakash's AgBioView/AgbIoWorld, the Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI) and the industry lobby group Europabio, were so keen to 'Newsflash' to the world, was principally centered on the alleged suppression of 'data highly relevant to public health.'

The data, which 'are striking and significant', were summarised by Ammann as follows:

'Increase of health risks in conventional maize:
...[due to] a dramatic increase in fumonisin levels, while the [genetically] engineered varieties had between 100 and 130 times less of the toxins.'

Fumonisins are toxins produced by fungi that can at certain levels in grains be dangerous to humans and animals. According to a joint press release by Morandini & AgBioWorld, the data on fumonisin from the Italian field trials had 'been kept completely hidden' despite its great importance for public health and even though the toxins in question have been linked to 'spina bifida, a highly disabling developmental defect occurring during early stages of pregnancy. Affected children usually cannot walk and they suffer kidney and urinary problems. Often, this is accompanied by brain damage.'

The press release alleged an official cover up of the 'data with obvious implications for public health, and it is up to the government to explain why the data on these toxins were kept under wraps.' It went on to say, 'The data should be submitted as quickly as possible for publication in a reputable journal, so that the scientific community is informed. It is immediately crucial, however, that they be made widely available so that consumers and farmers can clearly understand the financial and medical issues at stake. This is made far more urgent because of the misinformation and lies being spread by... a large coalition of lobby groups which are trying to impose a permanent ban on the cultivation of GM crops in Italy.' (Italian field trial results suppressed)

However, to judge by a press release issued in response by Prof Carlo Cannella, the President of INRAN - Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca per gli Alimenti e la Nutrizione - in Italy, it is Piero Morandini and his pro-GM associates who go in for 'misinformation and lies'. The President of INRAN describes the claims being made about the rersearch as both 'preposterous and groundless'.

At the centre of the controversy is the researcher Professor Tommaso Maggiore. It was his data on fumonisin levels that was said to have been suppressed by INRAN. But, according to Professor Cannella, the research they had commissioned from Maggiore had absolutely nothing to do with 'the presence of mycotoxin (fumonisins or further) in the specific GMO maize'. His research was meant to be focused on 'agronomic issues'. In fact, far from suppressing any data on fumonisin levels, 'INRAN was never even aware that Professor Maggiore was testing the presence of mycotoxins in maize.'

Professor Cannella also describes the claims of a cover up as 'truly bewildering as a request for an authorization to publish has never been made, neither by Professor Maggiore nor by other members of his team. Moreover, as we never had any knowledge of the fact that Professor Maggiore had some data concerning the presence of fumonisins or other mycotoxins, it is unjustifiable to suggest that INRAN prevented the dissemination of the pertinent data.'

Professor Cannella goes on to say, 'In the final report, forwarded to INRAN by Professor Maggiore, we can find the agronomic data without any reference to the presence of fumonisins or other mycotoxins. As commonly known in the scientific community, the scientist who obtains the data usually writes a scientific report in order to submit it to the project coordinator that can authorize its publication. Once again I would like to underline that the team of Professor Maggiore has never made any request for scientific publication to INRAN.'

As for Maggiore's agronomic data, which Morandini and his pals also alleged were being suppressed, these, according to Professor Cannella, were 'long ago included in the European Project 'Safe Food' and they will be published in within this project together with other data from field trials performed in different European Countries.'

Finally, in relation to the alleged 'dangerousness' of the conventional maize used in the project, Professor Cannella points out that while the conventional maize in the field trial is said to have a fumonisin level of 2450 ppb, this is actually well below the level regarded as safe within the EU. According to 'the CE Regulation 1126/2007 of the European Commission, the highest degree of fumonisins in non-engineered maize is of 4000 ppb, a level far greater that the amount detected'. (Press Release, 15 November 2007)
[Translation taken from http://www.gene.ch/genet/2007/Nov/msg00080.html ]

Incidentally, the GM maize is said to have had a fumonisin level of 1350ppb, which doesn't seem to remotely tally with the Ammann claim that it had '100 and 130 times less of the toxins'.

An article for FoodNavigator.com also noted that despite, 'the beneficial effects on plant disease of GM maize found in this single study, concerns have been raised over its health risks to humans. In March, it was revealed that the Monsanto maize MON863, authorised for human consumption since 2006, showed signs of liver and kidney toxicity in a rat study performed by French researchers. However, after reviewing the data, the European Food Safety Authority rejected the concerns in June this year. Genetic engineering goes against the increasing consumer trend for natural and organic products as fears have arisen over a lack of knowledge of its long-term effects. Environmental campaigners have also highlighted the impact on non-target species and there have been worries over the risk of contaminating non-GM crops.'

In the same article Roberto Defez - another pro-GM Italian scientist who was prominent in promoting the claims of 'suppressed data' - admits to FoodNavigator.com that the results from the study are - in the words of the article - 'not a major contribution to scientific research'.

Curious, then, that we were told that the publication of these same results was 'immediately crucial' given the 'medical' and other issues at stake , quite apart from the need to inform the scientific community.

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