When I-SIS organised its briefing at European Parliament in June 2007 ( Scientists and MEPs for a GM free Europe , SiS 35), we already knew that one of our scientist speakers, Dr. Irina Ermakova, had had her funding withdrawn because the results of her experiments ( GM Soya Fed Rats: Stunted, Dead, or Sterile , SiS 33) challenged the claims of the biotech industry that GM food is safe. She has since been the victim of a scandalous attempt to discredit her work by the mainstream journal, Nature Biotechnology ( Science and Scientist Abused , SiS 36) , and no satisfactory redress has yet been forthcoming (see Letter to Nature Biotechnology: Systematic bias in favour of no adverse impacts from GM feed , and Letter to Nature Biotechnology: Prepublication Review Yes, But Review Panel Must be Balanced , SiS 37).
A second member of the panel, Dr. Christian Vélot, has lost his funding. There is a committee of support for Vélot and they have organised a petition that has attracted 9288 signatures as of 26 January 2008. You can sign it on line by going to http://sciencescitoyennes.org/spip.php?article1638 . Please also send the link to your friends. The biotech industry is working very hard to suppress independent science and scientists; working through the very academic institutions that are supposed to defend them. We must do all we can to show our support as citizens and fellow scientists, and to send a clear message to the University administration that their action will not be tolerated.
Christian Vélot is a lecturer and researcher in molecular genetics at the Université Paris-Sud. Since 2002 he has led a research group in the Institute of Genetics and Microbiology (a joint CNRS-University institute) at the Orsay Scientific Centre. In addition to carrying out his teaching and research, he has devoted some of his own time to meetings on GMOs. These meetings, one of which in particular served as a working document for the GMO activists at the Grenelle de l'Environnement [a series of meetings in October 2007 in which representatives from government, professional associations and NGOs discussed environmental issues].
He has frequently appeared as a witness in the trials of people charged with destroying GM crops. Christian Vélot has been one of those who have been calling attention to the risks and promoting democratic debate on an issue that is largely concealed from the public. As a result, his Institute has brought considerable pressure to bear upon him, including cutting off all his research money for 2008, taking away his research students, and threatening to remove him by force. They have now announced that his group will be shut down at the end of 2009.
We demand that Christian Vélot and his group must be allowed to continue their independent research. In particular, his entire research funding must be restored and he must be permitted to remain in his laboratory at least until the end of his current contract, i.e. until the end of 2009. We also demand that the authorities pay serious attention to threats to the freedom of expression of scientists and we demand that there should be legal protection for whistle blowers, as has been agreed in principle at the Grenelle de l'Environnement.
This petition will be sent to the authorities of the Université Paris-Sud, to the Head of the Department of Life Sciences of the CNRS, and also to Valérie Pécresse, the Minister of Higher Education and Research, Jean-Louis Borloo, Minister of Ecology, Development and Sustainable Management, and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, Secretary of State for Ecology at the Ministry of Ecology, Development and Sustainable Management.
Article first published 12/02/08
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