Science in Society Archive

Science in Society #16 - Autumn 2002

The only radical science magazine on Earth

Science in Society 16 cover


From the Editor
Hidden Lights at the Earth Summit
From the Editor
Hidden Lights at the Earth Summit
Africa Unites Against GM to Opt for Self-sufficiency
Canadian Farmers Against Corporate Serfdom
Green Revolution Pioneer Supports Small Farmers
Ethiopia to Feed Herself
Launching Convention on Knowledge
Good-bye GMOs
Good-bye GMOs
What's Wrong with GMOs?*
Failures of Gene Therapy*
Human Cloning & Stem Cell Debate*
What's Wrong with Blair's Biotech Vision?*
Biotech Fever Grips Asia*
Biotech Fever Burning, Burning Out
Bt Cotton Fails in India
Global Strategy for Traditional Medicine
The GM Science War
The Future of GM Crops Hangs in the Balance*
Horizontal Gene Transfer Special
Suppression & Denial*
Stacking the Odds against Finding It*
Averting Sense for Nonsense*
Organic Agriculture Fights Back*
SIS Review
Say What?
Biosafety Alerts
Floating Transgenic Fish in Leaky Triploid Craft*
GM Trees Alert*
Pitfalls of Transgene Containment in Chloroplast*
Acrylamide in Cooked Foods: Bigger Problem than WHO Says*
The Brave New World Quartet
The Brave New World Quartet
Will Computers become Super-human?*
Nanotechnology a Hard Pill to Swallow*

From the Editor

Hidden Lights at the Earth Summit

The official Earth Summit has failed by most accounts, which is hardly surprising. It was a corporate takeover in more ways than one. Corporations had booked the choicest slots and venues for side-events. Tight police security, inadequate public transport, and steep admission fees combined to exclude most sectors of civil society from the official programme. And how could anyone see clearly or find one's way, least of all to sustainability, amid the forest of sponsoring corporate constructions and logos?

But all is not lost. We bring you some of the most important happenings overlooked by the mainstream media. Africa is uniting towards self-determination and self-sufficiency, provoked by the United States' move to blackmail hungry nations into accepting GM food. Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, father of the Indian Green Revolution, has turned his back on big agribusiness to support small farmers. As if to prove him right, Ethiopia is getting rid of her long time association with famine by adopting sustainable, low input agriculture.

Meanwhile, Percy Schmeiser, Canadian farmer persecuted by Monsanto for patent infringement after his fields were contaminated with his neighbour's GM canola, has inspired other farmers to take on the corporate giants.

Our 'Convention on Knowledge' proved timely. On the eve of the Earth Summit, the largest network of scientists and a representative organisation of all the indigenous peoples joined up with us, and the 'Convention' launched, appropriately, at an event linking traditional knowledge and science with its own highlights.

Good-bye GMOs

Forcing GM food aid on famine-stricken southern Africa is a sheer act of desperation and wickedness. Behind the aggressive stance and rhetoric, the biotech corporate empire is crumbling. The market for biotech has plummeted, with mass layoffs and investment drying up. A new report shows GM crops were an “economic disaster” for the United States. Biotech giant Syngenta is deserting the top UK plant research institute. Mounting evidence of hazards and worldwide rejection of GM crops all add up to an enterprise that's morally, scientifically and financially bankrupt.

We bring you up-to-date, in-depth analysis of why the enterprise has failed in both agriculture and medicine, and why it is unlikely to ever succeed: the 'technology' is uncontrollable, hazardous and error prone, the resultant GMOs are unstable and unsafe and the science itself is fundamentally flawed.

Many Third World governments have been misled into investing heavily in biotechnology, just as the downward slide in US and Europe is happening. Heading the pack is Singapore, which is now finding little or no matching private capital. Indian cotton farmers are devastated by massive failures of Bt-cotton crops.

Worse yet, those countries are failing to take advantage of their rich traditions of indigenous knowledge and natural biodiversity. Instead of biotech 'Bio-valleys' and 'Biopolises', they should be investing in holistic, sustainable science centres in order to promote and revitalise indigenous agriculture and health systems in collaboration with the right kind of contemporary western science.

The GM Science War Heats Up

The embattled British government-sponsored Farm Scale Evaluations are due to end in 2003. For Britain, as for the rest of the world, the decisive moment has come for GM crops: to commercialise, or to ban. The scientific establishment, the Government and biotech corporations have joined forces in attacking independent scientists and stifling debate.

Top establishment scientists have taken to attacking organic agriculture, because that's perceived to be the main threat to GM. Lim Li Ching turns the table on the criticisms in a comprehensive review of evidence that organic agriculture is working wonders.

Recent events in the science war over GM are a continuation of the sordid history of misrepresentation, suppression and denial, especially over horizontal gene transfer. The Food Standards Agency's own commissioned research has come up with confirmatory evidence despite having biased the experiment against doing so. I challenged the Agency over that, and the Agency has singularly failed to reply to the scientific criticisms.

Will the government really allow the science to be debated openly in terms that the public can understand, and will the scientists dare to tell the truth without fear of recrimination?

Biosafety Alerts

Prof. Joe Cummins gives us timely warnings of what mad scientists are up to: spreading triploid GM fish, spreading GM genes in chloroplast and GM trees that send mercury vapours around the globe. And not to mention the acrylamide in food that actually comes from the polyacrylamide widely used to purify water and in herbicide formulations including glyphosate.

The Brave New World Quartet

The corporate technologies - nanotech, IT, biotech and brain science- are teaming up to control every aspect of our lives, to boldly take us where we never want to go in the first place. We offer in-depth analysis and critique to separate hype from reality, and to expose the fallacies behind the claims and the motivation of the main players. It is important not to let false assumptions and love of technology dictate how human beings and societies are to live their lives, because that is what the Brave New World is about.

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