GM WATCH IS BACK! - The article they didn't want you to read (22/8/2007)

The GM Watch website is back after being shut down for nearly a week.

In an outrageous attack on free speech a Canadian Government bureaucrat succeeded in censoring a UK public interest website which serves a global audience on the GM issue. But his goal went still further than that.

The concern was over our expose of research which, according to a spokesman for Greenpeace Canada at the time, was "deliberately skewed to favour Bt corn, out of fear that consumers would reject the controversial technology."

Shane Morris initially focused his legal threats on the use of the word "fraud" in the title of our article, but once the GM Watch website had been forced down, his real goal became clear.

In a legal threat against GM-free Ireland, he stated:

"You will note that the GM Watch website in the UK has been disabled. As a matter of urgency please remove the [sic] **all** the GM Watch material on GM FREE IRELAND's website that you have reproduced in connection with me." (our emphasis added)

It's vital that this aggressive attempt at web censorship is totally defeated.

*Please circulate this news, and the following article, as widely as possible.

*If you know a website where this could be posted, please ask them to reproduce this message and the following GM Watch article, in order to expose just how far some people will go to try and fix public debate.




***The article they didn't want you to read***

[Go to the web page to see the damning photo of the "Would you eat wormy sweet corn?" sign]

The British Food Journal's Award for Excellence for Most Outstanding Paper in 2004 went to research that should never have been published. What the reviewers mistook for an impressive piece of scientific enquiry was a carefully crafted propaganda exercise that could only have one outcome. Both the award and the paper now need to be retracted.


Since this article was published a leading researcher into scientific ethics has called for the paper to be retracted.

New Scientist's report


It was late September 1999. The scene was a news conference outside a Loblaws grocery store in downtown Toronto. Greenpeace and the Council of Canadians were launching a public awareness campaign urging customers to ask the chain to remove all genetically modified foods from their shelves.

"The food is safe," shouted someone on the edge of the crowd. Jeff Wilson, who farms about 250 hectares northwest of Toronto, was part of a small group of hecklers. He had come to the store with Jim Fischer, the head of a lobby group called AgCare which supports GM foods. Doug Powell, an assistant professor at the University of Guelph, was also there.

And they had come prepared. Holding aloft a bug-ravaged cabbage, Wilson demanded, "Would you buy that?" Wilson claimed the cabbage could have been saved by genetic engineering.

According to a report in the Toronto Star, Doug Powell ended up in a shouting match with a shopper - 71-year old Evan John Evans, who told him, "I resent you putting stuff in my food I don't want."

A year later and Powell and Wilson's street theatrics had given way to a much more carefully choreographed exercise in persuading people that GM foods were what they wanted.

The scene this time was not Loblaws but Jeff Wilson's farm store, just outside the village of Hillsburgh. Here Powell and Wilson were running an experiment that had been conceived following the Loblaws encounter.

During summer 2000 Wilson grew both GM and conventional sweet corn on his farm. And following the first harvest in late August, both types of corn were put on sale amidst much publicity. The aim was to see which type would appeal most to Wilson's customers.

According to an award winning paper published in the British Food Journal, a sizeable majority opted to buy the GM corn. In the paper, authored by Wilson and Powell, and Powell's two research assistants - Katija Blaine and Shane Morris, the choice appears simple - the bins were "fully labeled" - either "genetically engineered Bt sweet corn" or "Regular sweet-corn". The only other written information mentioned in the paper that might have influenced the preference of customers was lists of the chemicals used on each type of corn, and pamphlets "with background information on the project."

What Powell and his co-authors failed to report was that the information on the chemicals came with a variation on the bug-eaten cabbage stunt Wilson pulled outside Loblaws. There Wilson had demanded of shoppers "Would you buy that?" In Wilson's store the sign above the non-GM corn bin asked, "Would You Eat Wormy Sweet Corn?" Above the the Bt-corn bin, by contrast, the equivalent sign was headed: "Here's What Went into Producing Quality Sweet Corn".

Toronto Star reporter Stuart Laidlaw, who visited Wilson's farm several times during the research, says, "It is the only time I have seen a store label its own corn 'wormy'". In his book Secret Ingredients , Laidlaw includes a photograph of the "wormy" corn sign, and drily notes, "when one bin was marked 'wormy corn' and another 'quality sweet corn,' it was hardly surprising which sold more."

Laidlaw also notes that any mention of the corn being labelled as "wormy" or "quality" was omitted in presentations and writings about the experiment. This is certainly the case with the paper in the British Food Journal. Yet the paper describes in some detail the care that the researchers took to avoid biasing consumer choice - by having, for example, both corn-bins kept filled to the same level throughout the day;


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