Saturday, June 04, 2016

Using fake science to sell GM foods.

In a recent piece for The Times newspaper in the UK, corporate propaganda merchant Matt Ridley cites a new report from the American National Academies of Sciences (NAS) to support his claim that there can be no doubt genetically engineered crops are as safe or safer, and are certainly better for the environment, than conventionally bred crops.  Ridley's case is based solely on biotech  industry funded research findings and ignores the many reports prepared by independent geneticists and medical researchers which make counter claims that the known health risks make Genetically Modified food crops a no-no without taking account of long term risks, the consequences of which will not emerge for decades.

Ridley repeats the claims of the biotech industry that GM technology reduces insecticide use and speculates that future GM crops will be even safer, better for the environment and better for human health. He says that it is a disgrace that Greenpeace still campaigns against Golden Rice, a vitamin-enhanced variety that its backers claim could save hundreds of thousands of lives a year.  In fact many research projects have shown there is no nutritional difference between GM and conventional crops and that higher yields can only be achieved through use of specialised (and highly polluting) fertilizers, and extensive irrigation.

According to Ridley, opposition to Genetic Midification from rich westerners adds to the cost of bringing such crops to the market, which he argues restricts the spread of GM technology.

In discussing the labelling of GM food in the US, Ridley argues that labelling food that has G M content implies there is something wrong. He argues that the recent NAS report makes the point that genetic engineering is a method, not a category of crop (it is, a method that replaces, for example, some of a tomato plant's genes with shrimp genes), and it makes no sense to single it out for special labelling because regulation should be based on traits, not techniques. Ridley implies, therefore, that GM is no different from food that is boiled or roasted as its actual content remains unaffected. By the same logic one could argue that it makes no sense to distinguish on labelling between peas and beans, corned beef and SPAM or wine and grape juice. It's about consumer choice.

Ridley finishes by saying the NAS report points out that “emerging genetic technologies have blurred the distinction between genetic engineering and conventional plant breeding to the point where regulatory systems based on process are technically difficult to defend.” This is completely untrue.

With a good dose of industry-inspired Public Relations puff , he concludes that because gene editing in particular will soon allow scientists to improve crops in ways that have none of the even theoretical risks that critics highlight, if Europe does not embrace biotech plants now, its agriculture will wilt.

Ridley’s piece is the usual concoction of misrepresentations, falsehoods and junk science we have come to expect of pro-GMO propaganda that rely on flawed sources and reports. Many other journalists who seem to have 'emotional ties' to biotech industry lobbyists have challenged their criticts to 'show us the evidence' but when they do, even citations from peer reviewed sources are dismissed as fake.

His major blunder is to have accepted at face value the NAS report.
In recent years American National Academies of Sciences has been compromised by serious conflicts of interest within its research arm, the National Research Council (NRC) studies promoted by NAS as authentic show GMO safety reports are authored by people with financial ties to Monsanto Corp and other big players in biotech..

A new report by Food & Water Watch “Under the Influence: The National Research Council and GMOs” highlights the millions of dollars in donations received by the NAS, NRC and other supposedly independent research organizations from biotech companies.

On its website, GMWatch discusses the Food & Water Watch report, which documents the one-sided panels of scientists the NRC enlists to carry out its GMO studies and describes the revolving door of its staff directors who shuffle in and out of industry groups. The report also shows how it routinely arrives at watered-down scientific conclusions based on industry science.

Some 11 out of the 19 members of the NRC committee listed in the NAS report have ties to the GMO industry or to pro-GMO groups. The two reviews of animal data relied on by the NAS to claim GMO safety are authored by people who also have conflicts of interest (an analysis of these reviews and why they are misleading is here).

Readers are advised to read the Food & Water Watch Report to see for themselves the massive conflicts of interests that Ridley either appears to be ignorant of or deliberately ignores in order to push a pro-GMO agenda. Lord Ridley has a track record for this sort of thing too, he has campaigned, presenting himself as an independent scientists, on the safety of shale fracking for oil and gas, without revealing his family's financial links to fracking companies.

GMWatch website notes that the NAS committee member chosen to speak about the food safety aspect of the report to the online magazine The Conversation was Michael A. Gallo, emeritus professor of environmental and occupational medicine at Rutgers University. Gallo is a regular pro-corporate commentator who in 2004 defended farmed salmon in the wake of research showing it contained high levels of toxic PCB chemicals.

In his piece for The Conversation, Gallo makes false and misleading statements, which are apparently intended to soothe public disquiet about the safety of GM foods; mistrust which has actually been fuelled the the industry's willingness to spend $$$many millions to suppress open discussion. For example, he says that any changes seen in GMO feeding experiments were “within normal ranges”. WTF does that mean?

GMWatch states it is an unscientific statement of a type often used to dismiss significant differences found in GM-fed animals compared with the non-GM-fed controls and goes on to highlight how pro-GM scientists make “pervert the scientific method” to come up with conclusions designed to mislead.
GMWatch concludes:
“It is well established that conflicts of interest affect scientific outcomes and conclusions in every field that has been investigated, from tobacco to pharmaceuticals to GM crops and foods. The public deserves better than the NAS’s biased attempt to convince the public that GMOs are safe.”
It is not the first time advocates for GM like Matt Ridley have used flawed reports to push for this technology and to attempt to pass off tainted sources as ‘independent’ and thus beyond reproach (see this and this).

It is gratifying to see that in spite of the money being spent on corporate lobbying and mainstream media propaganda in support of GM technology, and in spite of the (bought and paid for?) support from influential figures, the GM industry appears to be losing the argument.


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We told you that push to make all our food crops Genetically Modified was much more sinister than feeding the world's poor at the expense of ordinary people in developed nations. Now the real agenda is starting to be revealed.

To Feed The World In A Grain Of Golden Rice, The Controversy Of GMO Foods
With their business plans in tatters and their GM products languishing unwanted on shop shelves, the chances of Big Biotech and Big Ag corporations revovering the billions they had invested looked bleak. Then came a scientific breakthrough, not in the field of genetics or biology, but in the science of public relations.

US Accused of Pressurizing EU to Drop Frankenstein Food Ban Ahead of TTIP

Opponents of the TTIP trade treaty and environmental campaigners have accused US politicians and bureaucrats of putting pressure on the EU to overrule a legal opinion compelling biotech corporations to submit new types of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to rigorous safety testing and rquiring that foods containing genetically modified produce be clearly and explicitly labelled, ahead of the finalization of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement.

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New World Order

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