Science in Society Archive

Science in Society #15 - Summer 2002

The only radical science magazine on Earth

Science in Society 15 cover


From the Editor
Rice is Life
Rice Genome in Corporate Hands - Which Scientists can we Trust?
Has Science Compromised Science?
Breaching the Knowledge Monopoly - China Trumps the West in Sequencing Rice Genome
Significance of the Rice Genome
Science for the Poor or Procurer for the Rich?
The Best Kept Secret of GM Crops
GM Maize Approved on Bad Science in the UK
GM Maize War in Three Episodes
 1) Who’s Afraid of Horizontal Gene Transfer?
 2) Astonishing Denial of Transgenic Contamination
 3) “Worse ever” Contamination of Mexican Landraces
GM & Bioweapons
GM & Bioweapons in the Post-Genomics Era
Poison Pharm Crops Near You
AIDS Vaccines or Slow Bioweapons?
Circulating DNA Converts Genomes?
Human Gene Therapy Scramble Genomes
I-SIS Discussion Paper
Towards a Convention on Knowledge
Water, Water, Everywhere
Molecules Clump on Dilution
Homeopathy Enters Mainstream
Strangeness of Water and ‘Homeopathic Memory’
Crystal Clear – Messages from Water
Global-local Actions
Reinstate Ted Steele Unconditionally!
Keeping Brazil GM-Free
Freeing Scotland from GM
Agenda for Sustainability
Rough Road from Doha to Johannesburg
Climate Change Could Sink Us
Sustainable Food and Farming in Britain?
Sustainable Agriculture Pushing Back Desert
With a Bang, Not a Whimper
Book Briefs
Animal Medicine
Homeopathy and Public Health
Diabetes Not in Our Genes
Attempt to Discredit Adult Stem Cells
Website Only
Bottom-Up for Sustainability
Sustainability for Whom?
Women for Sustainability
Sustainable Cities and Communities
Biopatents & Biopiracy

From the Editor

I-SIS News gets a new face

Happy 2002! Thanks to your support, we are making ISIS News more attractive for general readership without losing our edge as the ‘only radical science magazine on earth’. We hope you like the new lighter style and illustrations.

For those registered to be members and friends of ISIS, they can still find detailed versions of the more technical reports on ISIS Members’ website. (These will be indicated by an asterisk * next to the title.) So nothing is lost. On the contrary, we gain in being able to expand on salient points in the full reports, without overburdening the rest of our readers.

Tell us what you think, and help us evolve.

Human cloning, gene therapy and stem cells

The public media have been preoccupied with pseudo-scientists threatening to clone human beings. But that is a smokescreen. Behind the scenes, reproductive and stem cell scientists are quietly leading us to the brave new world of ‘human farm incorporated’.

The right of scientists to research on human embryonic stem cells - to the extent of creating human embryos that are destroyed in the process - must be strongly contested.

The science and technology of adult stem cells are streets ahead of embryonic stem cells, and they are much safer.

Adult stem cells may go down in history as the most significant discovery in biology of the past century, rivalling the DNA double-helix.

Human genetics and genomics

A series of four reports strongly challenges the British government’s push for a human DNA ‘Biobank’ and heavy public investment into ‘health genomics’. Instead of delivering ‘healthcare in the new millennium’, it is intended to deliver patients to the health market. Unfortunately, it is likely to fail even that, and worsen the public health crisis, provoking the re-emergence of genetic discrimination and eugenics, and harming those most in need of care and treatment. Already, people seen as ‘disabled’ or ‘defective’ are treated as objects and denied a voice.

Genetic engineering and biowarfare

The latest Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) collapsed as the US again rejected formal mechanisms to verify compliance, leaving itself isolated in the international community.

The US accepts that bioweapons and genetic engineering must both be controlled. But it wants bilateral instead of multilateral agreements. And it rejected not only the BWC, but also the Cartegena Biosafety Protocol, that has already given rise to tough regional regulations on genetic engineering such as the Model Biosafety Law of Africa, and the new EC Directive. (While UK’s BWC delegation supports multilateral agreements, its scientists are busy watering down the EC Directive at home.)

There is no effective defence against bioweapons and the hazards of genetic engineering. The limitations and dangers of vaccines are coming to light in the midst of rumours that vaccine companies and the CIA may be linked to the anthrax attacks.

The only effective defence against bioweapons, as indeed against any other weapon is to resolve international conflict towards consensual peaceful control. One of the most important sources of conflict is the glaring, deepening inequality that blights the lives of billions and the conscience of all. The richest 1% earn as much as the poorest 57%, and now four fifths of the world’s population are living beneath the European and American poverty line.

Corporate science endangering and enslaving the world

The latest independent scientist to fall victim is a well-known critic of the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. That was when I decided to review the science seriously, only to find the establishment position distinctly wanting.

But given that Britain’s Minister of Science’s idea of science policy is to increase ‘competitiveness’ and ‘spin-off companies’, should we be surprised? Expensive vaccines are being sold to the Third World to serve vaccine manufacturers instead of tackling serious diseases, with readily available, cheap, effective and safe means. Mosquito nets, for example, beat any expensive transgenic mosquitoes and vaccines that can be created against malaria. And foods like honey could provide broad-spectrum antibiotics.

GM crops are failing on every count, and the weight of evidence in favour of ecological farming is growing apace. But the OECD is still promoting GM crops.

The same cabal of OECD countries are not above manipulation and deceit in negotiations at the World Trade Organisation in Doha, to make sure that the rich can extract even more from the poor.

UK government minister is saying "not yet" to commercial growing of GM crops. Questions on the safety to health and the environment are unresolved.

People’s science starting up

The good news is that genuine people’s science may be starting up in different arenas. Adult stem cells mending the patient’s own heart and curing cancer is excellent news, and should aim towards minimising intervention. This would also reduce patented methods, cell lines and immune suppressive drugs.

Academic ecologists have found irrefutable evidence that biodiverse systems are more productive (as indigenous farmers already know). There is much scope for research partnerships between academic scientists and farmers.

As the dominant reductionist medical model is failing, scientists are rediscovering indigenous herbal medicines. This can potentially revitalise indigenous health systems, protect biodiversity, and provide safe, effective and affordable healthcare for all. However, it could also encourage biopiracy and harass the communities concerned.

Scientists should reject biopiracy and plagiarism of indigenous knowledge and insist on involving the local community at every stage, to ensure that its interests are safeguarded. Commercial benefits should go towards enhancing local biodiversity and revitalising the indigenous health system. These are fully in line with the proposals from the recent indigenous peoples gathering in Brazil.

Finally, farmers and citizens have taken on the experts. A 17-year-old Dutch student performed his own experiments to show that mice really don’t like GM food, and when forced to eat it, become distressed and unwell.

Local inhabitants in the highlands of Scotland are holding a constant vigil in protest of their local GM crop trial, and witnessing the crop fail in front of their very eyes. And celebrated French farmer José Bové and his friends are fighting prison sentences for destroying GM rice in protest of research that does not benefit farmers.

This could be the beginning of real dialogue between people and scientists that could bring us closer to integrating science in society.

Article first published

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