from Claire Robinson
THE MONTH'S TOP STORIES
+ PUSZTAI DEMOLISHES PRESTON AND GM SAFETY STUDY CLAIMS
Dr Christopher Preston of the University of Adelaide claimed on the pro-GM AgBioView listserv that he has found 42 published studies, the vast majority of which found no harmful effects from GM crop products. Monsanto has supported Preston's claims. However, Arpad Pusztai, a leading expert in this field, points out that most of these studies are useless when it comes to evaluating food safety.
Dr Pusztai's comments are at
+ AUSTRALIAN PARLIAMENT ATTACK ON WAMBUGU, PRAKASH AND CO.
Ian Cohen MP made a brilliant parliamentary speech in the New South Wales Legislative Council. Cohen exposed the lies spread by AgBioView and CS Prakash, GM PR woman Florence Wambugu, and the deceptive corporate sector.
+ AUSTRALIA: CONSERVATIVE THINK TANK MULLS ANTI-ENVIRONMENT REBELLION
A conservative think tank has launched a rebellion against "environmental fundamentalism". The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), funded by mining, energy, biotechnology and agricultural companies, said environmentalists are now the new "establishment" to be overthrown.
+ SCIENTISTS UNDER ATTACK - MAJOR WORKSHOP
"Scientists under attack - reaction to research on the environmental and health impacts of GM crops" is the title of a major GM workshop at the Soil Association's annual conference TAKING PLACE THIS WEEKEND.
Speakers: Professor Ignacio Chapela, Dr Arpad Pusztai, Dr Terje Traavik and with Dr Andrew Stirling in the chair.
Saturday, 8 January 2005 4.30pm - 6.00, Slow Food lunch 1.00 - 3.30; Newcastle Civic Centre. To book contact Lisa Jones at [email protected] or call 0117 9874586 (switchboard 0117 314 5000).
+ ZAMBIAN GOVT DRAFT BIOSAFETY LEGISLATION
The Zambian government has drafted biosafety legislation to ensure the country is not consuming GM food.
+ PHILIPPINES: GROUPS CLAIM BT CORN HAS BAD EFFECTS ON HEALTH
GM Bt corn, which is widely used by farmers, causes adverse health effects to consumers and planters, according to a science group. "Considering that Bt is a toxin injected to the corn seed to fight certain pests and anything toxic is harmful to our health, it's just like having pesticide inside us," said Shen Maglinte, deputy director of the NGO, Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya.
Sibol, along with other NGOs, are documenting cases of diarrhea, headache, influenza and chest pains possibly brought by the corn pollens from Mindanao. Maglinte said it was observed that people residing near the field with Bt corn crops experience itchiness when in contact with corn leaves.
+ EU-FUNDED PR OP ON GM FOODS EXPOSES EFSA BIAS
News has emerged about conflicts of interest in the controversial ENTRANSFOOD project, which has now made way for a successor European Commission-sponsored project, SAFEFOODS.
One of the aims of ENTRANSFOOD has been agreeing safety assessment and communication procedures that will "facilitate market introduction of GMO's in Europe, and therefore bring the European industry in a competitive position."
Disturbingly, a recent report by Friends of the Earth on the work of the GMO Panel of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) revealed that several members of this key advisory panel have also been part of the ENTRANSFOOD project.
The ENTRANSFOOD project claims it has "brought together representatives from academia, regulatory agencies, food manufacturers, retailers and consumer groups from across Europe." But there has just been one solitary representative of Europe's "consumer groups" involved and there is no consumer representation at all on the key ENTRANSFOOD working group looking at the critical issue of "Safety Testing". There are plenty of experts sympathetic to industry, though - some are employed by the biotech industry
Serving alongside employees of Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta on the food safety Working Party has been Dutch scientist Dr Harry Kuiper. Kuiper is both Chair of the European Food Safety Authority's GMO panel and overall co-ordinator of ENTRANSFOOD. He also coordinates the successor project SAFEFOODS with his colleague Hans Marvin.
If it seems disturbing that the head of the key EU food safety panel on GMOs also coordinates a project which has the aim of facilitating their market introduction, equally worrying is Kuiper's involvement in the attacks on Dr Arpad Pusztai and his GM research. Kuiper has been accused of dragging "Pusztai through the dirt" while avoiding public debate with him.
Although the industry-aligned ENTRANSFOOD project offers little more than a PR gloss on GM foods, the Friends of the Earth report exposes how key statements of the European Food Safety Authority's GMO panel regurgitate almost word for word ENTRANSFOOD's position statements - statements arrived at with the help of employees of GM corporations.
+ WEEKLY WATCH HITS THE AIRWAVES!
An experiment is under way to make a short version of each Weekly Watch available as radio online. The first attempt involves Weekly Watch 103:
+ GM FOODS SHOULD BE BANNED, SAY DOCTORS
The Irish Doctors' Environmental Association has warned that, "[GM] foods have never been tested for adverse health impact on humans and animal tests have given rise to concern. Our association wants a complete ban on the growing of these plants and the sale of foods containing such products."
+ THE MYTH OF THE BIOTECH REVOLUTION
A paper in Trends in Biotechnology concludes that many expectations of medical biotechnology are "wildly optimistic and over-estimate the speed and extent of the impact of the technology...".
The 'biotech revolution' model of innovation underpins a substantial amount of government health, education, science and regional policy. It has created widespread expectations about the rapid impact of biotech. These expectations are not remotely matched by the reality.
The authors have written elsewhere, "Unrealistic expectations are dangerous as they lead to poor investment decisions, misplaced hope, and distorted priorities, and can distract us from acting on the knowledge we already have about the prevention of illness and disease." (This obvioulsy applies equally to the agricultural sector)
+ MINISTER TO ABOLISH GM SCRUTINY BODY IN UK
The environment secretary, Margaret Beckett, is to scrap an advisory committee after it repeatedly placed obstacles in the way of government plans to introduce GM crops. The commission established by the government to monitor ethical and social issues linked to GM crops is to be disbanded after its members insisted that conventional and organic farmers should be protected from contamination by GM crops - and be compensated if safeguards fail.
+ FARCE BEHIND MEXICO'S "MONSANTO LAW"
Summaries of two documents providing background on the Mexican Senate's recent passing of what has been aptly termed the "Monsanto Law" - a biosafety bill offering more protection to multinationals than to Mexico's farmers and biodiversity - are at
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