Henry Miller's lies in The Guardian (6/3/2008)

NOTE: The following article is made up of a series of lies and half-truths - 'sloppy' is too kind a word for it!

And, of course, what Miller has nothing to say about are the pro-GM papers that have been published despite a complete lack of scientific merit - think 'wormy corn'.

Here are some of the more obvious liberties with the truth taken by Miller.


Almost every word that Miller writes about the Pusztai affair is wrong. Here are some of the most glaring examples

Miller: The editors of the [Lancet]... said that in spite of the article's admittedly poor methodology and over the strenuous objections of the papers referees, they published it to make constructive progress in the debate among scientists, the media, and the general public about a highly politically charged issue.

GM Watch: These are straightforward lies. A majority of the papers' referees - and the paper had double the normal number of referees because of the controversy - SUPPORTED its publication, rather than objecting to it. And far from admitting the paper had 'poor methodology', the editor stated unequivocally that the paper 'was published on grounds of **scientific merit**, as well as public interest'. (emphasis added)

Miller: After an extensive review into the paper's methods, the British Royal Society concluded: 'On the basis of this paper, it is wrong to conclude that there are human health concerns with the process of GM itself, or even with the particular genes inserted into these GM potatoes.'

GM Watch: The Royal Society's highly partisan review took place ***PRIOR*** to the paper's publication and was based on a partial account of the research. Their behaviour attracted considerable criticism.


Miller says the authors of a paper in 2000 in the American journal Science 'neglected the proven benefits of GM organisms, including enhanced yields, nutritional enhancements, less use of chemical pesticides and more no-till farming, which causes less soil erosion and run-off of chemicals and lower release of carbon dioxide into the environment.'

But none of these benefits are proven!

YIELDS: 'Currently available GE [genetically-engineered] crops do not increase the yield potential' and 'may even decrease' it according to a US Dept of Agriculture (USDA) report (Fernandez-Cornejo, J. and M. Caswell. 2006, The First Decade of Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States. USDA-ERS http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/EIB11/ )

NUTRITIONAL ENHANCEMENTS: None commercially available even now so they could hardly have been listed in a paper published in 2000!

LESS PESTICIDES: This is a highly colntentious claim with much evidence pointing in exactly the opposite direction.

MORE NO-TILL: The US Dept of Agriculture's own analysis is unequivocal about this:

'Using herbicide-tolerant seed did not significantly affect no-till adoption.' No-till acreage in America had already been steadily rising before the introduction of GM crops. That prior trend has since simply continued. In fact to some degree it has subsequently stagnated according to the USDA analysis.


Miller writes: Months before the article was even submitted for publication, colleagues of the authors had pointed out serious flaws in the methodology and results.

GM Watch: Really? We have never seen this claim made anywhere before. Perhaps Miller would care to provide chapter and verse.

Miller: When the article appeared, it attracted a wave of criticism from major research groups that the journal duly published.

GM Watch: When the article appeared, there was an onslaught of character assassination which was later shown to have been initiated and fuelled by Monsanto and its PR operatives. The only criticism that the journal published was by several UC Berkeley-connected researchers, all of whom had been on the other side of the row over the Novartis-Syngenta tie-up with UC Berkeley to Quist and Chapela, who were amngst the most prominent critics of the deal.

Miller: Eventually the paper was condemned by the editor in chief.

GM Watch: So it was, leading to much criticism of the editor for having succumbed to the hate campaign against the authors. The editor never managed to explain not only the paper's successful completion of Nature's stringent peer review process in the first place, but also why only one of three reviewers of the subsequent exchanges between the paper's critics and its authors called for its retraction.

Miller: No other research group was able to confirm the findings.

GM Watch: The findings Miller's referring to concern the GM contamination of native strains of Mexican maize. This part of the paper was condemned by critics of the paper as a 'no brainer' at the time. It was a different part of the paper that was at the centre of scientific controversy over technical issues.

Miller talks about science being undermined by 'the propaganda of the anti-technology activists' but his own propagandising is a far more reliable guide to where the real problem lies.


Lack of peer pressure
When sloppy research and unsubstantiated claims go unchallenged by fellow scientists, the gold standard of accuracy is tarnished
Henry Miller The Guardian (Comment is free), March 6 2008

Go to a Print friendly Page

Email this Article to a Friend

Back to the Archive