"Desperate" researcher's "melodramatic lies" (9/1/2008)

NOTE: Private Eye is a famous satirical magazine well known for its investigative reporting. The term 'cobblers' is slang for rubbish, nonsense, BS.

For the previous Private Eye article (Award-winning paper 'a flagrant fraud' - Cambridge expert)

For more background


Corn on the cobblers
Private Eye No. 1201, 11-24 January 2008

Politicians in Westminster and Dublin have publicly condemned the libel threats used by a former biotech researcher to silence criticism of a dodgy paper on genetically modified crops published in the British Food Journal.

Eye readers may remember that when a Canadian research team reported that 50 percent more people preferred GM sweetcorn to the natural variety, they kept quiet about the less-than-subtle notices posted above the two kinds of corn on offer to customers. 'Would you eat wormy sweetcorn?' read a sign above the box of natural sweetcorn, while the sign over the GM corn included the words 'quality sweetcorn'.

A row erupted over the research, which had won the journal's 2004 award for excellence, and in May 2006 the New Scientist Magazine published calls for the paper to be withdrawn from a researcher into scientific ethics at Cambridge University.

But when the campaign groups, GM Watch and GM-Free Ireland published photos of the wormy sweetcorn signs, and joined the 'Award for Fraud' debate, one of the researchers, Shane Morris, now a Canadian government analyst, managed to get the plug pulled on GM Watch for a week, after he made defamation claims to the pressure groupís internet service provider.

After the Eye reported Morrisís threats in issue 1194, he wrote to demand a right to reply and made the extraordinary claim that Michael Khoo, then a Greenpeace campaigner, had tampered with the signs to sabotage the research. Morris said a photograph taken of Khoo next to the signs at the time of study proved his allegation.

It proved no such thing. No one, including Morris, had previously argued the photo showed Khoo had tampered with the signs in the seven years since the study began. Nor did a lengthy letter submitted to the British Food Journal by Morris's co-author Douglas Powell, of Kansas State University, which rejected allegations of 'bias and academic fraud' leveled at the paper. Neither was Morris's claim about the photo supported by another co-author, Katija Blaine, who told the Eye she knew nothing of the allegation. Indeed, the photograph of Khoo was initially used by Morris himself on his own website to show the 'wormy signs' had been removed - although subsequent analysis of the photo showed they were still on display.

Khoo said: 'Shane Morris must be fairly desperate to create such melodramatic lies seven years after the fact. If any of these things had actually happened, wouldn't he have been the first to call the police or tell the press?'

The Eye asked Morris to explain these rather glaring inconsistencies but he declined, simply repeating the claim that the photograph shows Khoo uncovering words that had been hidden. As to the Early Day motions signed by cross party MPs in Westminster and the criticism from Irish politicians, Morris said that 'no website was attempted to be shut down as any changes made to anti-GM websites were their decision based on complaints regarding specific wording claims that were requested to be changed.'

The row looks set to continue.

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